The Irishman spent the 2021/22 campaign at Championship side Sheffield United, initially struggling to impress at Bramall Lane but improving with the Blades managing to guide themselves into a play-off place.
However, Hourihane wasn’t exactly one of the first names on the teamsheet in South Yorkshire, making 28 league appearances for United with some of these displays coming from the bench as he competed with the likes of Oliver Norwood and John Fleck for a starting spot.
Quiz: The big West Brom striker quiz – Score over 80% and you can call yourself a true Baggies fan
That could rule out a potential move for the 31-year-old with the midfielder seeking regular game time, though Heckingbottom is reportedly engaging in talks with the player about next season.
He is set to be available for free this summer with his contract at Aston Villa expiring in under two months – and he can even enter talks with other clubs now regarding a potential move with West Bromwich Albion interested in luring him to The Hawthorns.
It remains to be seen whether the Baggies can offer him more game time than the Blades can, though he has already plied his trade under Steve Bruce with the 61-year-old recruiting Hourihane for Villa back in January 2017.
Hourihane isn’t guaranteed to be a regular starter considering their existing options in midfield, with Jake Livermore and Alex Mowatt potentially two key starters in deeper midfield roles with John Swift in front of them.
Jayson Molumby and Taylor Gardner-Hickman are also options available to Bruce so the Irishman may need to wait for his first-team chance or impress in pre-season to give himself the best possible chance of being involved regularly.
In a bid to freshen things up though, Bruce may want Hourihane as a starter and the 61-year-old knows he can rely on the midfielder from their time at Villa together, though the latter may need to seek reassurances regarding first-team opportunities.
He could potentially drop down to a team that doesn’t have promotion ambitions to give himself the best possible chance of being a starter – and the fact he’s a free agent should provide him with more options to choose from.
In terms of Albion, the likes of Molumby and Gardner-Hickman could be seen as longer-term options, potentially bad news for Hourihane. However, the latter could move back to his more natural full-back position and a surprise sale in that midfield area could open up a spot for the Irishman.