ON-LOAN Swansea midfielder Conor Hourihane has hinted that his Aston Villa career could be over after his contract with the Premier League club expires this summer.
Hourihane has made an impressive start with Swansea scoring three goals in three games, but the Cork man admitted there is a significant gap between the Championship and Premier League and that Villa might feel that he is not part of their plans to go to the next level.
“Until you play in the Premier League, and I think the normal fan probably doesn’t appreciate the level of the Premier League, it’s really top class. The players, their physicality, the way they look after the ball, how they move it and the pace of the pass, the tempo, it’s really at a top, top-class level,” Hourihane said in a recent podcast with our sister paper.
“I never played at the Premier League until I got promoted so I always thought, ‘is the gap that big?’
“But I would still say there is a big gap once you get promoted look at Villa we spent over £100m when we got promoted and we barely stayed up.
“Let’s see what happens over the coming months. Villa is a fantastic club. I’ve been there four years — it’s such a fantastic club, great set-up, huge football club — but they’re moving on as well a little bit and going to a level where, maybe, the club feels is past my level; that’s their opinion so we’ll just see what happens come the summer.
“This is the first time in my career where we’ve gone out on loan. I know it’s probably the right thing for me. I’ve got two daughters, a partner, and my second daughter is eight-weeks-old.
“It’s about two-and-half hours away (from home) and we’re in lockdown. It’s not easy (leaving the family) and having a newborn makes it tougher. But for me to get into the best place for the summer, I knew I had to get out on loan.
“I know this is the right thing for me — playing, playing well. Probably the position in the league they’re in , they’re up there, pushing for promotion.
“I spoke to the manager three or four times and it would have taken a good move and a bit of convincing to move. But speaking to him made my decision very easy.
“He was fantastic over the phone and has been fantastic since I arrived. I’ve definitely made the right choice.”
The abuse players receive on social media has been well highlighted recently.
Although some remarks on those platforms have affected some players negatively, Hourihane has found using a psychologist useful, not only to deal with online trolls but also to help improve performances on the pitch.
“The racial abuse some lads get at the moment is a disgrace. I don’t understand it, I don’t know why people do it. I don’t know what people achieve from it.
“It’s disgusting. It absolutely baffles me, that people are still stooping to those lows, to abuse people on the colour of their skin or whatever it is. I just don’t get it.
“I’ve had it off fans, saying ‘you were shocking’, ‘you were terrible’, or whatever. It is what it is.
“It really really hasn’t affected me. One of the things I’ve used over my years playing is a psychologist.
“Not because I’ve struggled in any way — and people always go to me, ‘you’re using a psychologist, are you struggling?’
“I’ve used it and it’s been massive for me. When I moved from Plymouth to Barnsley, I moved up a level to League One and I thought, ‘right what can I do here to make this work for me?’
“What extra yard can I go to? And I asked a few people’s advice and they said ‘why don’t you use a psychologist and become mentally really strong’.
“And it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
“You go back to things like social media and whatever, it just doesn’t affect me anymore. Maybe it did when I was young, but I feel like, mentally, it’s one of the strongest parts of my game.
“No matter what comes my way, whether it’s social media or a bad performance or a setback, mentally I’m really strong so I just brush it off and crack on.
“To be honest, the psychologist I’ve used for many years, he’s become one of my closest friends in England. People always think you must be going through a tough time in your personal life, or a tough time in your football life, but for me, I use it more when I’m at the top of my game, to make myself mentally even stronger, to keep myself at that level.
“Rather than use it when you have a dip in your form or in your life, and you think ‘oh I need a psychologist to pick me back up’.
“Everyone in football, they use the gym, they look after their body, they want to become technically better.
“For some reason, people work from the neck down and sometimes don’t train upstairs. And the upstairs needs to be trained just as much.”