'Conor Hourihane will be in his prime for Premier League' - Keith Andrews backs Irish star to be Villa's main man
Former Ireland man Keith Andrews feels that Conor Hourihane is about to come into his prime now that he is about to play in England’s top flight for the first time.
Hourihane (28) has played in every division in England bar the top one, enduring three straight seasons in the fourth tier, with Plymouth. He was a key figure in Aston Villa’s rise to the top, sealed with Monday’s play-off win over Derby County, and Andrews is eager to see how the Cork native fares.
"I’ve watched his career a lot, going on loan to Plymouth and at Barnsley. I watched him closely at Barnsley and I felt he was a Roy-of-the-Rovers-type player, a Match-of-the-Day-type player, whereas now he’s becoming a complete player," says Andrews, himself a late bloomer who was 28 when he made his Premier League breakthrough at Blackburn.
"I can relate to the relief. He's been on a great journey, he's a talented player, he's had to go down and come back up.
"He's gone up the steps, he was hailed at League One level where he was one of the best players by a distance, the captain at Barnsley, and then he’s made the step up to a big club and dealing with the pressure of playing at that club and two different managers as well.
"I feel the move to Villa has matured him so much as a player. Even playing the type of role he’s had to play.
"He has added some structure to his game, positional sense, tackling ability, not that he is ever going to be a Roy Keane type in a tackle, but he does it with a bit more intensity now. He is a more complete central midfielder the last couple of years at Aston Villa."