Alex McLeish has told Stephen Ireland to be patient after revealing the out-of-favour midfielder was left out of his squad because of fitness rather than form last weekend.
McLeish is hopeful Ireland can still make an impact in claret and blue and insists the 25-year-old is likely to remain at Villa rather than being sold or loaned out in January.
Villa’s boss explained that the former Man City favourite was omitted from the match-day 18 at Swansea on Sunday after straining a ligament in his right foot in training.
“He did have a knock,” said McLeish, who confirmed Ireland has returned to training this week.
“In training on Friday morning he came in after the warm-up and said he was just feeling a bit of pressure on it when he was running.
“Even jogging was too painful to endure, so there was no way we could risk him.”
Ireland has made just five league and cup starts so far this season and three appearances from the bench.
He was last in the first XI in the mid-October defeat at former club City and his last substitute cameo came in the home victory over Norwich earlier this month.
Asked if he expected Ireland to leave on a temporary or permanent deal in January, McLeish replied: “He’s here. At the end of the day, in terms of wanting him to go, I don’t need anybody to leave this club because we are kind of thin on numbers anyway.
“Don’t think I’m criticising Stevie but I’m still looking for the players to give me that wee bit extra.
“I can’t really loan anybody else out. I’ve still got hopes for Stevie.”
Ireland still has two-and-a-half years on a contract he signed in August 2010 when he joined Villa as an £8 million-rated makeweight in the deal that took James Milner to City.
According to the Villa boss, Ireland has impressed on the Bodymoor Heath pitches and McLeish hopes the former Irish international can rediscover his form in an instant.
“He’s worked really hard,” added McLeish. “He’s always one of the star performers on the training ground because of his touch and his vision.
“I certainly can’t say he hasn’t applied himself. Stevie, like everybody else when we’re 13 games into it, has just got to be patient.
“In the Norwich game, if he’d been released by Charles N’Zogbia and perhaps scored it can turn like that. Sometimes it just takes the snap of your thumb and fingers sometimes to trigger your form again and you get back to top form.”