Steve Bruce Confesses What Conor Hourihane Will Fix About Villa

Of all the issues discussed with the Villa boss at a fan meeting this week, Conor Horihane was the player that seemed to excite Bruce the most...

‘the team has been like a fancy car that doesn’t have an engine’

Bruce & Hourihane Take One

In the January transfer window of the 2016/17 season, Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce finally got the man who slipped from his grasp six years ago. Conor Hourihane was playing his youth football at Sunderland due to the Irish connections Sunderland harboured back in the days of the Niall Quinn/Roy Keane axis. Bruce was in charge of the Black Cats and a certain Cork-born youngster’s contract was coming to an end during his time there. Bruce offered him a new contract, but Hourihane wanted to join his inspiration Roy Keane at Ipswich instead.

The Ipswich move didn’t exactly work out well for Hourihane, as Keane left Portman Road sharply and the young midfielder found himself surplus to requirements failing to even play a single senior game at Portman Road.

it was Plymouth that began the proper development of him as a player and then at Barnsley, Hourihane started to become the real deal, helping them get back to the Championship via the play-offs and then fully showcasing his potential as a player for the Tykes (more from MOMS on Hourihane’s background).

Villa Remedy

Steve Bruce speaking to MOMS and fellow Villans at the Fans Consultation Group this week very much sighted Hourihane as the answer to several of the current weaknesses of the Villa team.

MOMS had pointed out in the informal meeting that Villa were bottom of the pile in the Championship when it came to goals from set pieces (just three) and Bruce suggested Hourihane would very much be on freekick duty from this point forward.

More importantly, Bruce said that Hourihane, alongside Lansbury and Birkir Bjarnason, would address another issue MOMS raised, namely the current lack of running off the ball going forward to support attacks, give options and create space for teammates.

At times it’s been puzzling why Villa players have been criminally guilty of being so static at times. Bruce wasn’t messing around when he told MOMS the reason there hasn’t been much purposeful movement this season. He basically said, it was because the players aren’t capable of it!

It was refreshing and surprising to hear the manager be so frank; but aren’t they supposed to be professional footballers? It’s shocking. At least Bruce knows as supporters, we’re no fools and have noticed such things.

You got the feeling that Bruce has been in a bit of despair once he got to know the ins and outs of the squad he inherited. I don’t think the January window could have come quick enough in the respect of allowing the Villa boss to build a midfield that offered purpose, energy and verve.

Missing Part

When you look at the Villa squad after the summer window and consider the money that was spent, you do think, as other team’s supporters must do, that with Kodjia, McCormack, Jedinak, Adomah, Grealish, Ayew, Chester etc, that Villa should be doing much better than they are doing. Alas, it seems though that the team has been like a fancy car that doesn’t have an engine.

MOMS would also be surprised if the changes don’t address the away record and also the fact the team average less shots on target on their travels than any other team in the league.

Hourihane and co will also give the likes of Jordan Ayew and Jack Grealish a kick up the backside. Ayew, MOMS would expect to leave by the summer window, at the latest, while Grealish will have to seriously knuckle down and refine his game to be a first teamer.

If MOMS was to remember just one word that Steve Bruce said when describing the virtues of Conor Hourihane and what he could bring to the Villa team, that word would be “swagger”.

It’s been a long time since we’ve witnessed any of that coming from the Villa midfield.


* Check out an  earlier MOMS post to get a good insight into Hourihane’s background

For a smarter approach to Villa’s transfer window follow MOMS on Twitter here @oldmansaid 

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  1. All of this Grealish speculation is a pity because we have had a good week with new signings, and all of this Grealish talk is causing a lot of unrest, I don’t think anyone would be happy with a swop deal for Rhodes, although this is a player that could really help us and Kodjia. What’s going on if it’s true that Bruce really wants him in surely the club can afford to up the bid, get him in now and sell McCormack and or Ayew to fund it. Let’s not go on about selling a potentially great player for the future in Grealish. Someone at the club needs to quash this rumour before it gets out of hand.

  2. i think Bruce & Villa have been sluggish this window – if it has been so clear for so long, why wait to seal these deals until the end of the month?

    • In terms of Lansbury, Bree & Hourihane, there’s been issues at board level at both Forest and Barnsley that have slowed the deals down. Also, in terms of Hourihane, Barnsley also wanted to announce a replacement to appease fans, before Villa announced Hourihane deal. Things can be more complicated than they seem.

  3. Definitely moving in the right direction now, excellent new signings all we need now and this is just my opinion is Rhodes I believe he would make an ideal strike partner with Kodjia .
    Think all of this speculation about Grealish is a load of nonsense Tony Xia’s comments have been mis interpreted and he won’t be going anywhere soon.
    I totally agree with the squad we have now ( to include a good striker ) we should be right up there with the top teams and whilst I admit I thought the play offs were gone, just maybe there’s a chance. Let’s hope so.

  4. Its going in the right direction. Grealish hasn’t really delivered so far but unquestionably moments of brilliance. Except for goals, Gabby’s has upped his game. Some of our regulars will really have to up their game now to get anywhere near the first team. It can only be good for the club. Lets see who rises to the occasion. With a squad like ours, we should now be up there with Brighton and Newcastle. Let the good times roll.

  5. think grealish and ayew are big time charlies [plenty use of the subs bench for those 2 now] have to admit the signings have been good took a little to long for my liking now with a decent midfield and maybe a striker on the way fat boy will be a bench warmer for the rest of hjs villa career [11 goals in 6 years diabolical] now give us some hope with a late charge for a play off spot that will give us hope for next year with 19 games left I’m going for 13 wins to fill me with confidence for next year or am I been silly oh well never mind top half finish costs me 2 season tickets will gladly pay up if my prediction of 13 wins comes true come on you lions start to roar been hearing a miaow lately

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