Swansea City could be set for a Premier League return next season and one man who could prove vital to their chances is Conor Hourihane.
The 30-year-old joined the Welsh side on loan from Aston Villa in January where he was struggling for opportunities under manager Dean Smith.
Hourihane is no stranger to the Championship having played over 100 games for Barnsley before joining Villa in 2017.
Ever since the creative midfielder stepped through the doors at the Liberty Stadium, he has made a huge impact both through his abundance of experience and his goal scoring form.
The hard-working Irishman has scored five goals in his 11 appearances so far for the Swans which has seen them win eight of their last 12 in all competitions.
Hourihane once again showed just how important he has been to this promotion chasing Swansea side last weekend when he scored the only goal of the game in a vital 1-0 away win over a strong Luton team.
The Irish international has become somewhat of a fan favourite for not just what he can do with the ball but also what he can do without it.
Fans were lapping up an image of their star midfielder laughing at the Middlesbrough bench as Swansea scored a 97th minute winner against Neil Warnock’s side a few weeks ago.
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It is often said that loan signings don’t have the same passion that permanent fixtures at the club have to ensure they win at all costs, but this is not something that can be levelled at the ever professional Hourihane.
The Villa man will not only want to prove to Dean Smith that he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level but will also be eager to ensure Swansea make a return to the Premier League, to give himself another shot if things don’t work out at Villa.
Villa manager Dean Smith told Birmingham Live: “It would be a loan to the end of the season to get him back playing and get him back to us,”.
However, the Irish international may be reluctant to return to the bench at Villa Park after such a bright spell in Wales.
Since his loan move, Villa have brought in Morgan Sanson from Marseille and young Jacob Ramsey has found first team opportunities more readily available – there’s more competition for Hourihane now than when he left.
Swansea are a young and exciting side to watch but teams that lack experience often get found out when it comes to the crunch of the play-offs.
Hourihane has been through the nerves of these crunch situations before with Villa and his experience will be able to guide his younger teammates through.
Playing alongside Hourihane can only be a plus for players such as Yan Dhanda who is still just 22-years-old.
Youngsters can take a look at how professional on and off the pitch Hourihane is and he can really help to grow the abilities of these players who will look up to him.
If Swansea do get promoted back to the Premier League securing the services of Hourihane is a must.
He has shown what a vital part to their squad he has been, and he hasn’t even played a full season yet.
Steve Cooper and the Swansea hierarchy will surely be doing everything they can to ensure they keep this midfield maestro beyond this season.