Mark Hughes: 'Stephen Ireland can become key player'

Stoke manager Mark Hughes on the touchline during his team's Premier League match against Arsenal on September 22, 2013
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Mark Hughes feels that Stephen Ireland can keep improving to become an important player for Stoke City this season.

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has insisted that Stephen Ireland can become a very important player for the club this season.

Ireland made his first start for his new club and scored the opener in Stoke's League Cup third-round win over Tranmere Rovers, and boss Hughes thinks that there is more to come from him.

"Stephen has come in and everybody can see he is an intelligent footballer," BBC Sport quotes Hughes as saying. "He understands the game and how to affect the game in a positive manner.

"He took up some great positions in and around the opposition box and when he gets in good areas he will finish. I thought he was excellent. But we are still trying to get him up to speed."

Ireland made 47 league appearances during his three years at Aston Villa.

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Stoke City at the Bolyen Ground on August 31, 2013
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