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Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Monday, 18 October 2010 13:12 UK

Stephen Ireland predicts bright future for Aston Villa

Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland
Ireland missed an early chance to put Villa ahead against Chelsea

Stephen Ireland is confident that Aston Villa can continue to improve after a promising start to the season.

Villa drew 0-0 with Chelsea at Villa Park on Saturday, a result that left Gerard Houllier's side just three points behind third-placed Arsenal.

"At times we looked really good and we asked a lot of questions of Chelsea," midfielder Ireland, 24, told BBC WM.

"We'll only get better the more that we play together and hopefully after Christmas we can really kick on."

With Marc Albrighton sidelined with a virus, the former Manchester City midfielder was handed only his third Premier League start for the club he joined in August as part of the deal that took James Milner to Eastlands.

Ireland almost netted his first goal for Villa inside two minutes, but he shot wide after being played through by Stewart Downing.

"The ball just got caught under my feet," said Ireland. "Usually my first touch would be two yards away from me so I can get my whereabouts.

"My head was down, I just tried to hit it across the keeper and unfortunately it didn't go in for me.

"I've just got to keep getting those chances, keep making those runs and hopefully I'll start putting them away eventually."

Villa travel to Sunderland on Saturday, with Houllier waiting on the fitness of defenders Luke Young and Richard Dunne, as well as striker Emile Heskey.

Young and Heskey were not fit enough to make the starting line-up against Chelsea, while Dunne was forced off after 13 minutes after being hurt in a challenge with Gael Kakuta.



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