Former Aston Villa forward Gabby Agbonlahor believes Sheffield United loanee Conor Hourihane has already played his last game for Premier League side Aston Villa, speaking to Football Insider.
The Republic of Ireland international has less than 12 months remaining on his contract at the Premier League club, but was allowed to go out on loan to Slavisa Jokanovic’s side for the remainder of the 2021/22 campaign, all but confirming he will not be returning to the West Midlands.
Hourihane first arrived at Dean Smith’s side from Barnsley in January 2017 and was a regular in his first four seasons at Villa Park but found himself stuck behind the likes of Douglas Luiz, Ross Barkley, John McGinn during 2020/21 and was even fighting for a first-team spot with youngster Jacob Ramsay.
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With this, he was sent out on loan to Swansea City during the second half of the last campaign and was ever-present in the Welsh side’s team, playing 25 times and coming within one game of guiding the Swans back to the Premier League.
Even with the impact he made at the Swansea.com Stadium, there was little prospect of him regaining a meaningful place in the first team and moved on to Sheffield United just over 24 hours before the transfer window closed.
After seeing this move go through and Hourihane’s Instagram message saying goodbye to Aston Villa fans, ex-Villa striker Agbonlahor believes the 30-year-old’s time at his parent club has come to an end.
In an interview with Football Insider on the Irishman’s status at Villa and how delighted he is to see him link up with the Blades, Agbonlahor said: “That’s him done now, as well.
“I don’t think he’s going to go back to Aston Villa. He’s posted on Instagram that he’s left for good.
“Conor Hourihane will have had an honest conversation with the manager and said ‘Am I going to play this season?’ And the manager has probably said ‘No’. Conor has thought he wants to play football games, Conor wants to do that.
“He’s not a player that can come on in games, he will want to start games. He won’t want to just sit around and not play.
“It suits Conor and I’m happy for him to go to Sheffield United, get them winning games and hopefully get them promoted.”
These latest comments from Gabby Agbonlahor could be a source of encouragement for his current loan side who may want to make his deal permanent at the end of the season if he proves to be a success at Bramall Lane.
Alongside someone of the quality of Norwegian midfielder Sander Berge, Hourihane should be able to thrive in the middle of the park and help the South Yorkshire side to turn their fortunes around after a poor start to the 2021/22 campaign.
Manager Jokanovic may have the likes of Morgan Gibbs-White, John Fleck and Oliver Norwood to call upon as alternative options in the middle in what looks to be one of the strongest midfields in the Championship, but it would be hard to see someone of Hourihane’s quality be dropped to the bench.
He has too much Premier League experience to be a bit-part player, but competition from the likes of new signing Gibbs-White and previous key man Oliver Norwood will only help the 30-year-old to maintain his performance levels.
And considering he’s available on a free transfer next summer, barring any U-turn from Aston Villa and the player, he could be a bargain on a permanent deal depending on how well he performs this term.