Daren Bent says Stephen Ireland is the best player in the Aston Villa squad
DARREN Bent has called for new Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert to give an extended run to Stephen Ireland in the 'hole' role behind the main striker to get the best out of him next season.
Ireland was voted Villa's player of the year by supporters for last season as he recovered from a disappointing first campaign at the midlands club.
England striker Bent believes Ireland is capable of achieving even greater heights if given time to settle into his preferred position as opposed to being played out wide.
Bent said: "There's no point playing Stevie Ireland one game and then moving him to the right and then taking him out of the team.
"You've got to play Stevie Ireland four or five games in that position and go from there.
"For me, he's the best footballer in the squad, and if you want to see the best Stephen Ireland and get the best out of him you need to be playing him."
Bent, currently recovering from the ankle injury which ruled him out of Euro 2012, said: "As a striker you want somebody like Stevie picking out your runs and playing passes to give you more chances.
"The best way to do that is to play him in the 'hole'.
"Confidence can make a massive difference to any player, and when he is feeling good about himself the performances will follow.’’
Cork-born Ireland refuses to play international football with the Republic of Ireland.