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Back in 2017, being affiliated with Aston Villa in any manner was far from any form of pride. Was there excitement? Sure but mostly as a result of intrigue with the club under the Ownership of the eccentric Chinese businessman Dr Tony Xia. Relegated in 2016, Aston Villa were making desperate attempts to achieve promotion at the first time of asking with several names walking through the doors at Bodymoor Heath. Conor Hourihane was late to the scene, arriving in the January transfer window yet throughout his 5-year stay, would go on to leave a lasting legacy at Aston Villa with his professionalism and pure talent. Since supporting Aston Villa in 2012, it’s fair to say my first experience at Villa Park was mostly deflating as Paul Lambert’s side suffered a 3-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic. I watched the reaction of the Villa faithful around me to that performance and what I took away was the fan’s desperation for representation. What I mean by that statement is for players to show similar willingness, and passion in accordance with the supporter's beliefs, which in turn results in mutual respect for Aston Villa Football Club, an institution created out of the joy and passion for football. In recent years, players such as Conor Hourihane have bridged the gap between supporters and teams with the Irishman’s resilience and undoubted love for the cause of achieving a victory, no matter the difficulties. From memory, two goals immediately become apparent in my mind when discussing the topic of Conor Hourihane (or as I like to name him the Irish Iniesta). His exquisite strike against Birmingham City in 2018, dipping over David Stockdale in the opposition net. The other, was a powerful finish against West Bromwich Albion in Aston Villa’s Play-Off Semi-Final 1st leg, helping Dean Smith’s side achieve promotion to where the club belong, amongst football’s elite in the Premier League. I don’t often cry during footballing matches, yet the relief that Conor’s goal brought on this occasion made me incredibly emotional. With a brilliant ability to dictate play in the midfield whilst offering a threat offensively, Hourihane is such an enjoyable player to watch as a fan of not just Aston Villa but of the beautiful game that is football. I have always been told that hindsight is a beautiful thing and looking back at Hourihane’s appearances in claret and blue, 132 to be exact scoring on 23 occasions, I feel incredibly lucky to have had Conor as a representative of Aston Villa Football Club. Now a Derby County player, it’s peculiar to not hear ‘’Aston Villa’’ and ‘’Conor Hourihane’’ in the same sentence anymore. In the words of Paul McCartney, when Aston Villa found themselves in times of trouble, the Irishman was able to turn games on their head with sublime goals or significant contributions to an attacking phase of play. You are rarely able to find a player of such determination and enthusiasm nowadays who in turn creates a special relationship with a club’s fanbase. £3 million, £3 million was the price that Aston Villa paid for the services of Conor Hourihane, a piece of transfer business that has turned out to be extremely shrewd. Derby County are acquiring a player who is going to tear League 1 apart with his artfulness, accuracy and supreme technical ability. Equally, they are also acquiring the services of an individual whose core beliefs within football rely on togetherness and enthusiasm. After the monstrosity of Derby County’s period under administration, the Rams will be desperate to employ this positive mindset as they move forward under a new Ownership as well as manager in Liam Rosenior. I for one will certainly be keeping my eye on how Conor Hourihane progresses at Derby County. Who knows, maybe Conor can achieve the third promotion of his career?

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