By Paul Brown
Paul Lambert has hailed the exceptional talent of Stephen Ireland on the eve of the Manchester United clash.
Lambert was thrilled with the impact of Ireland against Sunderland and will be looking for more of the same from the midfield ace in the coming weeks.
Lambert believes Ireland is relishing a "bit of freedom" as he links midfield with attack beautifully.
He also thinks Ireland can make the difference in games and help the team "punish" their opponents.
He said: "I thought Stephen was exceptional against Sunderland.
"He is a really clever player and a really talented footballer.
"He is one of the most naturally talented footballers that I've seen in a long while.
"I thought he was great at the Stadium of Light. Some of the football Stephen played against Sunderland in behind the strikers was superb.
"Maybe he now has that belief to go and use his ability to the best he can.
"He thrives off a bit of freedom to make things happen.
"At this level if you have players like him it can help you can punish teams."
Despite eulogising about Ireland, there's no guarantee the former Manchester City man will play against his childhood team Manchester United on Saturday.
As Lambert has said on several occasions, he always picks a team he believes can win the next particular game.
One thing's for sure, whoever he selects will give it a "right good go" against the Red Devils.
He added: "It's against one of the best teams in Europe.
"We are at home, we will give it a right go, the crowd will be right behind us.
"The month of November is extremely tough, but so was October, September and August!
"Every game in this league is tough. It can be unforgiving at times. But our confidence is good now."
Make sure you're here to roar on the lads against Manchester United.