Championship club Birmingham City attempted to recruit Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane before his season-long loan move to Sheffield United, according to The Athletic correspondent Gregg Evans who revealed this transfer update on the 1874 podcast.
After becoming a key part of the West Midlands side’s first-team on his arrival from Barnsley, leading them to promotion to the top flight in his first full season at Villa Park and going on to play regularly in the Premier League on their return during the 2019/20 campaign, he fell out of favour under Dean Smith last term.
The 30-year-old made just four appearances for Villa between the start of the 2020/21 season and mid-January, leading to the top-flight club sanctioning a loan move for the Republic of Ireland international to Swansea City for the second half of the campaign.
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This temporary spell proved to be a roaring individual success for Hourihane who made an outstanding 24 appearances in all competitions for the Swans and helped them to reach the play-off final, before eventually losing out to Brentford at Wembley.
Despite playing a key part in Wales in the first half of 2021, he was still deemed surplus to requirements at Aston Villa and was loaned out to Slavisa Jokanovic’s Sheffield United on the penultimate day of the summer transfer window.
However, The Athletic’s Gregg Evans has recently revealed another second-tier side in Birmingham City were interested in his signature, though the incident between the Blues and Aston Villa during a March 2019 tie where a fan came on the pitch and punched the latter’s former star man Jack Grealish may have made that deal impossible.
“I don’t think he would have [joined them]. I don’t think he was interested in doing that move purely because of what happened with Jack (Grealish), with the punching incident and the history.
“I just couldn’t see him ever been a Birmingham City player, but they certainly wanted him.”
The thing that makes the Jack Grealish incident such a big thing for Hourihane is the fact he started that game at St Andrew’s and witnessed the punch live, but you also have to say that person who did that doesn’t represent the whole of Birmingham City Football Club.
It was a scandalous thing to happen so you wouldn’t blame the 30-year-old for still being emotional about that moment. When you boil it all down, he saw his own teammate attacked and it was completely unprovoked.
However, the vast majority of the Blues’ fanbase would have backed Hourihane if he had come to St Andrew’s to ply his trade – and with the experience he has in the top two tiers of English football – this would have been a magnificent addition.
Having both Hourihane and Troy Deeney in their starting lineup may have been a game-changer for Lee Bowyer’s side, who have already shown a vast improvement from their performances from last season.
But they also have the likes of Ryan Woods, Ivan Sunjic and Gary Gardner who can all do a stellar job in the middle, so this failed move isn’t the end of the world.