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Ireland's new role

"I've gotten used to 4-3-3. I've not played 4-4-2 for four or five seasons, and my game has to be different in that system. Last year I was bombing forward into the box.

"Now I have to adjust, and it will make me a more rounded player eventually. I have to play with more discipline, especially when Gareth Barry gets forward, but I feel like I'm getting there.

"I do like to get forward, but it's just different rather than frustrating. I want to be as complete a player as possible, so I will benefit. It's not an easy change to make after a few seasons, but I'm up for the task. It's better for the team, that's the important thing."

>>mcfc.co.uk

His second-half substitue appearance at Villa prior to the international break was considered to be a return of form somewhat for Ireland, who has struggled at times this season in the adjusted role he has been handed.

Putting the reigns on Ireland has been a by-product of the increase in attacking threat that we added during the summer, as playing with a central striker and two support players it is inconceivable that one of the midfield trio can then operate in such an advanced role that Ireland did during 2008/09 when there was far more responsibility upon him given the paucity of attacking options.

Whilst Hughes now has a host of options in all positions and will utilise the squad, he seems intent by and large to persist with the current formation that has brought success so far this campaign.

Could this mean Ireland becomes expendable to the starting eleven? Unthinkable perhaps given his stunning form from last season where he really should have been a stronger candidate for the overall Premier League player of the season, but such is the competition there now is for places in the side he is no longer certain of being a regular starter - particularly if (and it maybe a big if) Michael Johnson returns to the fitness and form he displayed at the start of 2007/08 as arguably he would be a better fit for the role that Ireland has been handed this season.