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Why a move for Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane should excite Aston Villa fans

Jake Jackman

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Aston Villa are in advanced talks with Barnsley over Conor Hourihane and James Bree, according to Sky Sports, with a deal for the former believed to be nearer completion. There has been a lot of interest in the pair and it will be considered somewhat of a coup if the deals go through as expected. Although Bree is an exciting talent, it will be Hourihane that can make more of an immediate impact and he could be the best signing made by a Championship club in this window.

At the age of 25, Hourihane is ready to come straight into the Aston Villa side and he has already shown this season that he is one of the best midfielders in the Championship. He has played a key role as Barnsley have climbed to 8th position, but his contract expires at the end of the season and the Yorkshire club need to sell him now or risk losing him for nothing in the summer. They aren’t in the financial position to get no fee for their captain and best player, which is why he is set to move in this window.

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His goal record for Barnsley was excellent in League 1 and he has continued to find the back of the net on a regular basis in the Championship. This season, he has contributed an incredible six goals and eleven assists. No player in the league has more assists than the Irishman. Although he has been a very good player in the third and fourth tiers with Plymouth and Barnsley, he had never played in the Championship before this season, which makes his achievements even more remarkable.

Barnsley have the second best attack in the Championship, scoring 46 times this season. That is a great achievement for a newly-promoted side and Hourihane has been a central figure for them. He has not only adapted to the Championship, but he is already emerging as one of the league’s most consistent and dangerous midfielders. Hourihane is a complete midfielder, possessing a good passing range and a powerful strike, which makes him a threat in attack. Moreover, he is an intelligent reader of the game and able to get stuck in if required, as shown by his average of 5.6 ball recoveries per match. The 25-year-old will also add leadership and a quality set piece delivery if Villa are able to complete the deal.

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Steve Bruce has already added a midfielder with plenty of Championship experience in Henri Lansbury. Villa also have Aaron Tshibola, Ashley Westwood, Gary Gardner and Mile Jedinak that can play in the centre of midfield. The pursuit of Hourihane may look like an odd one, but it suggests that Bruce isn’t happy with the options available to him in the squad that he inherited. The Barnsley captain is a complete midfielder, capable of contributing in both halves of the pitch and that is something that is perhaps lacking. Furthermore, given Hourihane’s contract situation, it could be that the opportunity to get one of the best midfielders in the Championship has arisen and Bruce believes it is too good to turn down.

If Villa manage to complete a deal for Hourihane, it could turn out to be the signing of the window. He has been one of the players of the season so far and will hugely improve the Villa starting eleven. Their main problem this season is a lack of lower league know-how, especially when it comes to killing matches off, underlined by their league-high 12 draws. They have more than enough quality to secure promotion, but they lack leadership and Hourihane will provide that. This is a player that led Barnsley from the bottom of League 1 to the Championship during the second half of last season. There is no reason why he can’t play a part in taking Aston Villa into the play-off positions this season if he does move to the club.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Dan Westwell

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Aston Villa

Gary Gardner must leave Aston Villa this summer

The central-midfielder needs to consider moving on from Aston Villa this summer.

Mathew Coull

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Aston Villa are now condemned to another season in the Championship after suffering defeat in the play-off final against Fulham yesterday. Steve Bruce’s side are set for another season in the second division and need to look at some new signings this summer to take the next step. They also might have to consider moving other players on. One player whose future is surely up in the air is central midfielder, Gary Gardner.

The local lad has been with Villa for 13 years and this summer he will turn 26-years-old. But still, he has lived a life of perennial loan deals and, since making his debut for Villa in 2011, has played just 46 times for the club.

In that time he has also spent successful loan spells at Coventry City, Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and Nottingham Forest. This season he was at Barnsley, where he suffered relegation from the Championship.

So what next for Gardner?

There is a school of thought that Aston Villa remaining in the Championship might have helped his chances of getting into the first-team at Villa Park. however, Gardner has now tried and failed on numerous occasions to make it into the first-team at his local club and the time has come for him to move on.

(Photo by Martin Willetts/Getty Images)

He is under contract at the club until 2020 but his future is surely no longer at Bodymoor Heath. Gardner struggled for his best form in Yorkshire this season. Now the time has clearly come that the loan deals are no longer sustaining him. Gardner needs a permanent new home in order to fully show off his talents as an excellent midfield option at this level.

Back in the 2015-16 season, Gardner was brilliant on loan at Forest and he could rediscover that form if given the right opportunity at the right club.

The time has come for Aston Villa and Gardner to part, in order for the midfielder to finally establish himself as a top Championship player.

His departure would be the best option for his career.

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Moussa Marega would be perfect for Aston VIlla should they get promoted

Josh Kerr

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Moussa Marega
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According to the Birmingham Mail, Aston Villa are looking to sign Moussa Marega after the Porto striker’s asking price was dropped to £26 million.

Merega’s buy-out clause stood at £35 million, but Porto have been forced to lower their demands due to Financial Fair Play concerns, leaving Steve Bruce’s side in a perfect position to swoop for the Mali international.

The 27-year-old would be an addition of intent for the Villains, and perhaps the marquee signing that the fans would expect, should they be promoted at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.

Steve Bruce’s side were unable to show off their financial power this season due also to Financial Fair Play rules.

However, if they beat Fulham in the play-off final, the claret and blues will be in a position to spend heavily over the summer.

3-year-old Albert Adomah has been a revelation at Villa Park this season, firing 15 goals as well as contributing six assists, leading the scoring efforts for Bruce’s side.

(Photo by Francisco Leong/Getty Images)

However, if the Midlands outfit were to secure promotion on Saturday they would need further additions to adequately equip themselves for the gruelling nature of the Premier League. Marega would help them do just that.

The French-born forward scored 22 goals in the Primeira Liga as Porto ended their five-year wait for a league title, and now it looks as though he is ready for his next challenge, with a transfer appearing imminent.

Porto need to sell, and Villa need to invest if they are to see themselves grow into the Premier League juggernauts they once were, so it could be a move that benefits both parties.

However, the report also suggests that Wolves are in the hunting for the forward and, considering their track-record of attracting Porto stars in the past, the Villains must act quickly if they are to grab themselves an assured European goalscorer.

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Aston Villa would be the perfect platform for Harry Wilson if they are promoted

Josh Kerr

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Photo: Getty Images

Aston Villa are 90 minutes of football away from a return to the Premier League, and they are already looking at potential signings for next season if they are promoted.

The Midlands side face Fulham at Wembley on Saturday in the Championship play-off final with a place in the top flight up for grabs. And, should Villa bring an end to two years outside of the promised lands of the Premier League, they will be determined to recruit properly to prepare themselves for next season.

According to the Scottish SunLiverpool are looking for a loan fee of £250,000 to snag impressive academy prospect, Harry Wilson, in a deal that would also see financial penalties issued should he not get the required amount of first-team action.

Wilson has been one of the brightest prospects in the Reds academy for many years and his recent form in the Championship is highlighting why there is such a buzz for this talented youngster and why the Villains should swoop.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Since departing for a temporary move to Hull in the January window, the 21-year-old has been in fine form, netting seven goals in 13 appearances to help Nigel Adkins’ side avoid the drop.

The youngster also made his international debut in his first start for Wales under new boss Ryan Giggs and netted a maiden goal for his country against China.

Despite the winger’s talents, it seems impossible to think that Wilson could break into Liverpool’s irreplaceable ‘fab three’ which means another loan move would be the best option for his development, and Villa’s potential promotion to the Premier League could set up the perfect platform in the top-flight for the youngster.

Loan deals are never ideal, permanent signings are what supporters want to see, but this is is a move that could be a benefit for both parties and something Steve Bruce should strongly consider.

The Villains likely have enough quality at their disposal to compete strongly in the Championship again next season, if they don’t win their play-off, Wilson could give them serious depth.

The winger is an elegant and languid play maker in the mould of Jack Grealish, and the combination of the two could get fans very excited for next season.

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