Conor Hourihane: The Sheffield United-linked Aston Villa midfielder who turned down Sheffield Wednesday
There was always going to be interest in Conor Hourihane this summer.
The talented Aston Villa midfielder couldn’t quite make the impact in the Premier League as he had done in the Championship with Aston Villa and, indeed Barnsley before that.
And the Republic of Ireland international showed in the latter half of last season that he's still more than capable of turning it on in the second tier, having helped Swansea into the Play-Off Final where they eventually lost to Brentford, during a loan spell from Villa.
Hourihane made just a handful of top flight appearances for Dean Smith’s side last season, one of them coming against Sheffield United last September, with an improving Villa pushing the 30-year-old onto the fringes.
As a result, he’s now being linked with a move away and United are reportedly potentially challenging West Brom to secure the hard-working playmaker.
It’s not the first time he's had interest from Sheffield and back in 2017, it was Wednesday – at that point a little more cash flush than they are now – who wanted to bring him in
Superb performances for a Barnsley side who won the EFL Trophy and secured promotion via the Play-Offs from League One caught the eye of a number of teams and that intrest strengthened when the step up into the Championship proved a breeze.
Wednesday were one of those clubs, with his Barnsley team mate Sam Winnall also being snapped up by then boss Carlos Carvalhal.
And the player himself has explained the reason why he would choose Aston Villa when leaving Oakwell rather than the Owls who were at that point on the way to a second successive Play-Off spot.
He said: “[Villa] is just a massive club and it was a chance I could not turn down. Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday were in for me, I didn’t want to join Wednesday as I felt that would have been a kick in the teeth to Barnsley, but I felt settled living further north.
“It was the place I wanted to go, and I enjoyed the pressure of it. Not everyone can handle playing in front of 45,000 every week, but I loved it. What a fantastic stage it is to perform on, and we have had some success there too.”
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then and you would imagine that moving to another South Yorkshire club now, wouldn’t cause Hourihane or indeed Barnsley fans themselves too much concern.
United are of course in the market for a midfielder with John Lundstram having left the club and joined Rangers, while Sander Berge is still expected to depart, despite Slavisa Jokanovic stating that he wants the Norway interantional to stay amid interest from Arsenal and Napoli.
Hourihane has a year left on his contract and it would be expected that Villa would be prepared to let the player go for a fee dung this window, rather than send him out on loan again and allow his deal to run down.