Having been allowed to leave Aston Villa on loan in the January transfer window, it’s fair to say Conor Hourihane is doing his best to remind those at his parent club why he should have been kept.
The Republic of Ireland international had struggled to get much game-time at Villa Park in the first half of the season in the Premier League, playing just 228 minutes of top-flight football before his departure for Swansea.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of a game against West Ham earlier this season, Villa manager Dean Smith was quick to acknowledge that it was difficult for Hourihane. He said: “Conversations can be difficult but if you’re just speaking to the players with honesty then you usually find a way through that.
“We’d played two, won two and Conor had come off in both games. We signed Ross and I felt we needed to go a different way against Liverpool given who we were playing against. I explained that to Conor and, yes, he was disappointed because he had been involved in the first two games but we felt we’d brought in a real, high-calibre, different type of player.”
Now on loan at the Liberty Stadium, Hourihane is underlining just what a talented player he is on his day, already racking up five goals in just 12 games in the Championship.
It’s no surprise that Steve Cooper, his manager at Swansea, has raved about the Irishman, saying: “He’s been so impressive from the day he’s come through the door, which wasn’t that long ago. I thought his composure and quality on the ball is what we want it to be. If that’s the start of things to come then happy days.”
Last summer, Villa journalist Dan Bardell waxed lyrical about the midfielder’s ability following an impressive performance in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace towards the end of the 2019/20 season.
He said: “Whether you rate Conor (Hourihane) or whether you don’t, and obviously we’re two people that rate him highly, you can’t deny that when he’s on the pitch, we’ve looked better this season. And he’s a weapon from set pieces.
“The way he looks after the ball is very underrated as well. I think a lot of people take that for granted.”
Given how well he has performed for Swansea in the short time he has been there, and the troubles which Villa themselves have faced in recent weeks (they’ve managed just three goals in their past five games), Smith must surely be ruing letting the 1.81m-tall (5 foot 11) Hourihane leave in January.