Barnsley: Heckingbottom has sympathy with Conor Hourihane over Aston Villa switch ahead of reunion

Conor Hourihane
Conor Hourihane
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Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom admitted he would probably have made the same decision as Conor Hourihane.

The former Reds’ skipper jumped ship to Championship rivals Aston Villa last month, for a reported £28,000-a-week deal.

The wages significantly dwarfed what he could potentially earn at Oakwell, even if he signed a new contract.

“If I had been a player in a similar situation then I’d have probably have done the same thing,” admitted Heckingbottom. “Money is a huge part of it because the figures he could earn in this league compared to what we were paying was outrageous.

“We were in a position where the club thought we were safe this season and it was a case that we would be losing players in the summer for free. If the club were happy with the money then he was going to go because Conor saw it as a massive opportunity.

“We saw it as a chance to get some money in and then reinvest and build for the long term.”

Heckingbottom and co will come face to face with Hourihane, and James Bree, as they travel to Villa Park tonight.

Steve Bruce’s outfit are in a deep rut at the moment, having gone eight games in all competitions without a win - losing six.

Heckingbottom only has two central midfielders at his disposal in the form of Matty James and George Moncur. New boy Alex Mowatt is still suspended after his debut red card, whilst Josh Scowen is set to have a scan after sustaining an ankle injury on Saturday. On a positive fitness note, centre-back Adam Jackson is back in contention after overcoming a virus.

Heckingbottom added: “I saw Villa a lot earlier on in the season and they played well without getting the results.

“They had lots of draws that could have been wins.

“They spent a lot of money in January and reinvested in even more players.

“The results may not have come of late, but they’ve still got the calibre of player that can score out of nothing.

“No matter how we play they have matchwinners in the side who can score at any moment so it’ll be a tough game.”