Speaking recently on the Gather ‘Round The Lamp podcast, Regan Foy stated his ‘worry’ for Aston Villa midfielder, Conor Hourihane.
The £5.4 million-rated 29-year-old was a pivotal part of Aston Villa’s promotion-winning side in the 2018/2019 season, in which he scored eight goals and provided 11 assists over his 46 Championship fixtures, averaging an impressive WhoScored match rating of 7.01 – ranking him as the club’s fifth-best performer in the league that season.
However, last term, the Ireland international saw his league appearances drop to 27 fixtures, and, while he still scored three goals and provided five assists, his average WhoScored match rating also dropped to 6.69 – ranking him as the club’s seventh-best performer in the league.
And, despite scoring a goal and providing an assist in the club’s 3-0 victory over Fulham earlier this season, the midfielder has not featured in the league since that fixture, with new loan signing Ross Barkley getting the nod ahead of Hourihane.
The 29-year-old’s omission from the Villa side was one topic of conversation on a recent episode of the Gather ‘Round The Lamp podcast, in which Foy stated he felt sorry for the midfielder.
He said: “I can’t help but feel sorry for Conor Hourihane. I do believe he’s not a regular Premier League starter, but the man has scored such important goals for the club, you can name so many. I feel like he’s been cast aside a little bit.
“He’s not even come off the bench. Obviously, it was a good thing he didn’t against Leicester, but the one gripe I have with Dean Smith is that he struggles to give players game time from the bench.
“Hourihane hasn’t been used at all since Barkley’s arrival. Granted, it’s only been two games, but there’s a worry for me that we risk upsetting players, and then you disrupt the squad harmony.
“We’ve seen in the past that Hourihane isn’t necessarily one to remain quiet, he’s happy to chat to the press if he’s unhappy, or if he’s happy or anything like that. So, that’s something that I do take a little bit of issue with.”
Do you feel sorry for Conor Hourihane?
TIF Thoughts on Regan Foy’s comments regarding Conor Hourihane…
From Foy’s comments, it is clear that the podcaster is cautious about the fact that Smith has not utilised Hourihane since the arrival of Barkley, and that the Villa manager could be running the risk of upsetting the 29-year-old if he continues to leave him out of the side.
However, as Foy himself mentions, his worries regarding Hourihane are based on a rather small sample size of just two games, and, in one of these two fixtures, Barkley scored a late winner to seal all three points for Villa, justifying Smith’s decision to leave him on the pitch.
In addition to this, it is not hard to argue that Barkley was brought into the club as an attempt to improve Villa’s midfield, and hopefully, for Villa fans, the former Everton will be able to help them continue their excellent start to the 2020/21 Premier League season.
As such, in our opinion, while Hourihane has indeed played an important role for Villa in the past, the midfielder’s feelings about being left out should not stand in the way of the progression of the club as a whole.