Barnsley: Reds confident Conor Hourihane will sign new deal despite interest from Aston Villa, Celtic and Rangers

Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane is in demand
Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane is in demand
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Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom hopes to tie captain Conor Hourihane down to a new deal as soon as possible.

The influential midfield maestro’s current contract runs out at the end of the season and talks have already begun over an extension.

Hourihane has been excellent in the centre of the park in the Reds’ first season back in the Championship, scoring four goals and creating eight others in his 15 appearances so far this term.

“We’ve spoken to him about a new contract and it’s a case of the sooner the better for me,” revealed Heckingbottom, who led the club to duel Wembley honours last season with the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and victory in the play-Off Final.

“Conor’s been great for us and we can’t force a decision from him.

“He still has a duty to the team to perform, but we are confident [on him staying].”

The Irishman could leave Oakwell, where he has spent the last two and a half years after joining the club from Plymouth Argyle, for free in the summer.

And some clubs will look to take advantage of that in the upcoming January transfer window as they try to lure fan favourite Hourihane away from Barnsley.

Old Firm arch rivals Celtic United and Rangers both have Hourihane high on their agenda of targets, with fellow Championship club Aston Villa also interested in the 25-year-old.

Heckingbottom will be looking to ward off the interest for one of his prized assets as the Reds continue to surge up the Championship table.

However, Hourihane previously admitted he was flattered to be linked with the two Scottish heavyweights.

He said: “It is always nice to hear when you are linked with clubs because it shows you are doing something right.”

Meanwhile, star striker Sam Winnall and central midfielder Josh Scowen are both also out of contract in the summer, with talks already ongoing about keeping them at Oakwell beyond the end of the season.