"I would like to see the statistics from the Middlesbrough game because the work-rate he produced on Sunday was absolutely incredible," declared the Blues manager. "He is a fantastic footballer and has shown that in the last few games."
Ireland was left out of the home game against Villa because Eriksson felt the player wasn't mentally in the correct frame of mind to play.
However, as soon as the manager could bring the youngster back into the fold, Ireland was restored to the righthand side of the City engine room where he has struck up a fruitful partnership with Elano.
"Not to bring him back would, as you say in England, have been to shoot ourselves in the foot," reasoned Eriksson.
"The last few games he has played for us, he has been fantastic. He ran for miles on Sunday against Boro, showed good discipline and was tactically very aware.
"He could have a couple of goals as well. He was very good. Stephen is a good boy and nice young man. He may have had some problems and we have had to try and resolve those as much as possible.
"Stephen will have all the help that he needs and as a footballer he can only get better and better."