Wednesday 16 January 2019

Smith's arrival at Villa gives Hogan chance to revive fortunes

Scott Hogan: ‘I just want to get going. I want to play regular football again because that is when I score’
Scott Hogan: ‘I just want to get going. I want to play regular football again because that is when I score’
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

For Scott Hogan, this international break has coincided with what may turn out to be a crossroads in his career.

And Aston Villa's decision to sack Steve Bruce and last night appoint Brentford boss Dean Smith as his successor, with John Terry as his assistant, has opened the door for Hogan to revive his stay at the Birmingham club.

By his own admission, his £12m move from Brentford in January 2017 hasn't worked out and he feels that the style of football played by former boss Steve Bruce has been a major factor in that.

He respects Bruce as a man, but it's clear that Hogan is disappointed by how he was utilised in the aftermath of his move.

The Manchester man was prolific at Brentford, a team with a passing style that created a number of chances for the front man. At Villa, where critics of Bruce felt his team's style was one-dimensional, Hogan found himself doing most of his work outside the area. There were days where he felt the system was hanging him out to dry.

"I came to Villa and I quickly found out I had to change my game," he said. "It was frustrating because I was signed for playing a certain way. It led to less chances, less touches in the box, all that sort of thing.

"But I did what the manager asked me to do and he only ever asked me to work hard, which I know is a given in football. But it was frustrating."

Hogan's return of seven league goals in 50 Villa appearances is quite the contrast from his record of 21 in 33 for his former employer. But a summer chat with Bruce left him with the impression that things might change. "We spoke during the summer - a couple of days before the window shut - just to find out what was going on," he said.

"He was adamant that he didn't want me to leave and that I had a future playing as a striker and we were going to change the way we were playing. So it was disappointing for me two days later when he signed a striker and nothing changed at all."

Hogan had injury problems too, a groin issue that sidelined him for the beginning of the campaign. But he's been fit for the past month and simply not included, a revelation that came as news to Martin O'Neill when he checked in on the 26-year-old's well-being.

The player has found his wait for a senior appearance this season very frustrating, and quips that his partner is coping with his misery every day. There are some regrets too about the sliding doors moment; the Villa switch came up off the back of a move to West Ham that collapsed. He was intrigued by a summer transfer to Sheffield United that never came to pass.

However, he counters that he's at one of the biggest clubs in England and they have new owners that are determined to bring them back to the top table. "It's an absolutely amazing club and the fan base is incredible," he says. "It was a step up for me and there was a different style. I tried to get used to it but I struggled and that's the honest truth of it all."

Speculation around the identity of the next manager had given himself and Conor Hourihane something to discuss in their down time this week. Thierry Henry was the name on everybody's lips at the beginning of the week.

Terry - a team-mate last term - was considered a front runner before Smith got the nod last night. Jesus Garcia Pitarch will be Villa's new sporting director with Terry installed as Smith's No 2.

"He (Terry) was great last year," said Hogan. "Different to what you expect, he's almost quite shy but he leads by example. He knows what the fans expect and has played at a big club and won all sorts so whatever happens, happens. I've just been saying to the boys that no matter who it is - you've got a clean slate. This is my chance to establish myself in the team now."

Hogan's belated Ireland debut came in Turkey in March, where he squandered a glorious chance to make it a goalscoring one. The delay was caused by uncertainty over his intentions, and he was reluctant to get drawn into a Declan Rice discussion - perhaps conscious of where it might go.

In the here and now, Ireland have vacancies in the forward department and Hogan has a chance to shine. "It's been stop-start for me since I left Brentford, it's slowed my progress down," said Hogan.

"I just want to kick-start everything now. I just want to get going. I want to play regular football because that is when I score."

Irish Independent

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