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Conor Hourihane makes claim that will interest fans of Leeds United and Derby County

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Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane says his side were “chuffed” when they discovered they would be facing Derby County and not Leeds United in last season’s Championship play-off final.

Hourihane and his side secured promotion to the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Derby at Wembley last May, after the Rams had overcome Leeds in a dramatic semi-final to take their place at the end of season showpiece.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Derby had beaten Leeds 4-2 in a dramatic second leg at Elland Road to secure their place at Wembley with a 4-3 win on aggregate, and it seems Hourihane for one certainly enjoyed the result.

Speaking to The Athletic’s Going Up, Going Down EFL Podcast about that game, Hourihane said: “Obviously we played before Derby and Leeds and without sounding too disrespectful to them, as soon as Derby won that semi-final we were chuffed.

“We were delighted, because Leeds are a really good side. They play with energy, with intensity. They pass the ball about really well.”

Villa’s last meeting with Leeds had been a controversial one, with Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa allowing Villa to equalise after the Whites’ had taken the lead when Hourihane’s side had stopped playing due to an injury to Jonathan Kodjia, with the resulting 1-1 ending Leeds’ hopes of automatic promotion that season.

Discussing how that game would have impacted the build-up to a play-off final against Leeds, Hourihane continued: “A couple of months before (play-offs) we had that big scrap of a game where the big scenario happened where they let us score a goal.

“So there would have been a huge amount of media going into that game and people talking about the previous game. So when Derby won that game (semi-final), I was surprised because I didn’t expect them to win it.

“We fancied ourselves going into that game. We never thought that we would lose.”

It has been a difficult campaign for Villa following their return to the Premier League this season. Dean Smith’s side are currently 19th in the top-flight table, two points from safety but with a game in hand on those above them.

The Verdict

I do think Hourihane has a point here.

Leeds had been an ever-present at the top of the Championship table for much of the season, only dropping out of the automatic promotion places right at the end of the regular season.

Consequentially, there can be no doubt Marcelo Bielsa’s side would have been a hugely challenging opponent for Villa, had they made it to Wembley.

However, given the intrigue there would have been around the backstory of that last meeting between the two, you feel there will be many a neutral who would have wanted to see Leeds be the ones to take on Villa in that play-off final.


UCLan Sports Journalism graduate, been writing for Football League World since March 2019. I've previously worked for the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Opta, among others.

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Article title: Conor Hourihane makes claim that will interest fans of Leeds United and Derby County

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