STEPHEN IRELAND has been paid the ultimate compliment by his fellow professionals of being nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award.
His inclusion on a six-strong shortlist for the coveted prize is recognition of the gifted 22-year-old Blues midfielder's tremendous season both in the Barclays Premier League and the UEFA Cup campaign.
In-form Stevie's superb vision, tireless running and precision passing have been enhanced by 12 goals so far, including one in the first leg in Hamburg last Thursday night followed by another against Fulham on Sunday.
He faces tough competition from fellow nominees Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Gaby Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Jonny Evans (Manchester United) and Rafael (Manchester United).
Whilst there are some impressive performers on the shortlist, I would say the consistency of Ireland's play over the course of the whole season should see him as favourite for the award - so much so that he perhaps deserves inclusion for the overall award.