Ireland eager for new Villa deal
Stephen Ireland is working overtime in a bid to persuade Paul Lambert to hand him a new contract at Aston Villa.
Ireland is even training on his days off in his attempts to impress Lambert and secure a long-term deal.
The midfielder still has two years of his existing contract still to run at Villa Park, but is enjoying life under Lambert, despite Villa's difficult start to the season.
"I feel I play my best football when I'm relaxed and play with a smile on my face and I'm enjoying it rather than over-thinking it," Ireland said.
"The gaffer is a really good guy and fair and honest. He definitely knows what he is doing and talking about.
"He has been really impressive to me and I'm hoping I can play under him for as long as possible.
"At the end of the season I've got 12 months left on my contract so I'm hoping I can earn a contract here and prove myself to him with a good consistent run of form."
Ireland took up martial arts over the summer to help with his fitness regime and regularly attends the club's Bodymoor Heath complex on days off.
"We have two days off now to recover and I'm training those two days as well. I come in and do a bit myself and do work before and after training," he said.
Ireland enjoyed a roving role behind main striker Darren Bent in the 3-0 Capital One Cup win over Tranmere Rovers and would love an extended run in that position to help the England forward.
"Now I'm in the team, it is my job to create as many chances as I can for Darren because nine out of 10 he is going to finish," he said.
"He is a world-class striker and his finishing is unbelievable. If I can create chances for him, I know he is going to score."