This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more
Sheffield United endured a productive end to the transfer window under Slavisa Jokanovic.
The Blades brought in Morgan Gibbs-White and Robin Olsen on the final day of the window, bringing in Conor Hourihane on loan from Aston Villa the previous day.
Hourihane has tasted success at this level before, scoring seven goals and adding 12 assists as Villa won promotion under Dean Smith in 2018/19.
The Irishman impressed on loan at Swansea in the second half of last season, too, scoring five goals from midfield to help the Swans reach the play-off final.
He’s now at Bramall Lane hoping to make an impact and help turn the Blades’ fortunes around after a disappointing start to the season.
Here, we discuss whether we think Hourihane will be a regular starter at Bramall Lane or not…
Given Sheffield United’s difficult start to the new Championship season, it was something of a much-needed coup for them to manage to convince Conor Hourihane to make the move to Bramall Lane from Aston Villa.
There are few midfielders at this level who have had as much of an impact on their sides in recent seasons than Hourihane has had. He was excellent during his loan spell with Swansea City in terms of the goal-scoring impact he had and the calmness he brought to the side in possession. While he also played a key role in Aston Villa’s promotion in 2018/19.
You would expect Hourihane to be one of the first names on the team-sheet at Sheffield United now and he will bring a lot of quality to their midfield.
Crucially he will add vital extra goals and an extra player for opposing defenders to worry about when he gets forward to support the Blades’ attacking players.
It would be a major surprise if Hourihane does not become one of Slavisa Jokanovic’s most important weapons for the rest of the campaign.
He won’t get past Berge who looks like a class above most other players in the Championship – but aside from the Norwegian – the remaining places in midfield are more than up for grabs with Morgan Gibbs-White, John Fleck and Oliver Norwood all likely to compete for a first-team spot.
Hourihane does have a wealth of Championship experience though and has played in the Premier League not too long ago.
And the fact he did so well at Swansea City in guiding them to a play-off final may persuade Slavisa Jokanovic to put him in the starting lineup, not just because of his quality, but also the winning mentality that he brings and that’s so important for the Blades who are currently stuck near the bottom of the table.
This is one of the reasons why I believe he will start alongside Berge at the heart of midfield and at 30, he has both his age and experience on his side with at least a few more years left to give in the Championship.
His place in the starting lineup won’t be guaranteed each week though, especially with the competition for places so Hourihane will need to maintain his performance levels. That is a non-negotiable.
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Despite having some strong options on paper which include Sander Berge, Oli Norwood and John Fleck, Blades fans have been unhappy at the contributions from the engine room so far this season, so the signing of Hourihane was very much needed.
We all know what the Republic of Ireland international brings to the table – his driving runs from midfield always create goalscoring opportunities and he has a thunderous shot on him.
With Fleck underperforming and also being left-footed to create a balance in United’s midfield, you’d have to expect that Hourihane will come in for the Scotland international to see if he can make a difference.
He is proven at Championship level and next to Berge and with perhaps Morgan Gibbs-White in-front of that pair, it could spark a good run of results for the club who look solid enough at the back but have been lacking something going forward.
Hourihane for me will end up being one of United’s main men and it may very well leave the likes of Norwood and Fleck – who got the club to the Premier League – on the sidelines.