Lambert hails Ireland quality
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has hailed the quality of Stephen Ireland and is determined to get the best out of the midfielder.
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Ireland was left out of the starting line-up for the weekend defeat by Everton but produced a man-of-the-match performance in the 3-0 home triumph over Tranmere in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night.
The former Manchester City player set up the opening two goals for Fabian Delph and Chris Herd and also linked up effectively with Darren Bent.
Ireland has not always shown his true form since signing two years ago - although he is the current supporters' player of the year - but Lambert is keen to rectify that situation.
He said: "Stephen is a naturally gifted footballer, really naturally gifted.
"I don't know what happened to him the last bit (of his time here), but it is up to us to get the best out of him.
"He is a really talented player, really clever. We have to pull together what he is capable of as a team. The team is always more important than the individual.
"You are only as good as the person next to you. I'm a great believer in that.
"We need Steven and Steven needs the team to help him but he is a really talented footballer."
Lambert is prepared to give Ireland a free type of role.
He added: "I think the way Stephen plays you try and give him licence to make things happen.
"To be creative is a really hard thing to be and he has got that creativity in his armoury."
Skipper Bent scored his first goal in nearly seven months against Tranmere after registering his 100th Premier League goal in February.
But Lambert is adamant the greater good of the team is more important than any benefits Bent may have derived from finding the net again after recovering from ankle ligament damage.
He said: "It is more important we win regardless of who scores. We are in it together and the team is always more important than the individual.
"The third goal against Tranmere was excellent with really good movement and the finish from Darren was top class.
"But I'd rather win and Darren scores rather than get beat and he scores. If we win, that is the main concern."
Lambert is continuing his attempts to bring in Genk striker Christian Benteke and Middlesbrough left-back Joe Bennett before the transfer window closes on Friday.
Villa have already had one bid rejected for Belgium international Benteke and are close to making an offer for England Under-21 player Bennett.
Lambert admits Villa have received little interest so far from other clubs in out-of -favour defenders Alan Hutton and Stephen Warnock.
He said: "If your phone doesn't go, you have to wait and see. Maybe their agents are doing things, I don't know."