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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Dropping down the table to join Villa 'a no brainer' for Hourihane

The Irish midfielder is now an Aston Villa player after leaving Barnsley yesterday in a £3 million deal.

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BARNSLEY ARE JUST four points outside the play-offs in the Championship but Conor Hourihane says that leaving Oakwell for a club five places further down the table wasn’t a difficult decision.

After captaining Barnsley to eighth place in English football’s second tier, the Irish midfielder departed the South Yorkshire club yesterday after signing a three-and-a-half-year deal with Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee, reportedly in the region of £3 million.

While Barnsley have exceeded expectations this season after being promoted from League One, Villa have struggled following their relegation from the Premier League. After winning just eight of their 27 games so far, Steve Bruce’s side are in 13th place.

Nevertheless, Hourihane has insisted that the opportunity to join the one-time European champions was too good to turn down. Aside from the rich history associated with the club, it’s understood that Hourihane has been handed a five-fold salary increase.

“I am over the moon to be here,” Hourihane told AVTV. “Aston Villa is one of the very biggest clubs in England. Then there’s Villa Park. We have Steve Bruce in charge. We have fantastic facilities. We have great players. With the size of the club and where it wants to go, it was a no brainer for me to come here.”

Hourihane arrives at Villa Park as arguably the most coveted player in the Championship. He leads the division for assists this season (11) and has also chipped in with six goals, the most recent of which was a spectacular free-kick in Barnsley’s win against Leeds United this weekend.

Barnsley v Millwall - Sky Bet League One - Play-Off - Final - Wembley Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

“I want to continue the way I have been playing at Barnsley,” he said. “My confidence is high. Long may that continue. I work hard day in and day out and hopefully my form continues. Villa fans can expect an all-round midfielder.

“I like to stop attacks and also start attacks. I like to get in the box and score goals. I like to chip in with goals and assists. Hopefully that will continue, there’s no reason why not. I just can’t wait to embrace playing at Aston Villa and hit the ground running.”

Villa have 19 games remaining to stake a claim for promotion back to the Premier League, with nine points separating them from a play-off berth. But Hourihane, who skippered Barnsley to League One play-off success last season, believes it’s possible.

The 25-year-old Corkman said: “For Villa, I hope we go on a run now and get into the play-offs. That’s what we will be fighting for every single day in training. And if you have that momentum, like we did at Barnsley, you never know what might happen.

“We had a fantastic run and I knew going into the play-offs we’d have a chance. We had so much confidence on the back of that good run. I knew we had a chance of winning it. If we can do the same, there’s no reason why we can’t end the season on a high.”

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Paul Dollery

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