Uk News 'It's a great environment': Hourihane on Swansea, 'fantastic' Cooper and his Aston Villa future United Kingdom news
PremierLeague-News.Com - The Ireland midfielder is hoping for more fond memories in the Championship play-offs as Swansea prepare to face Barnsley
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! There will be few players on show when the Championship play-offs kick off on Monday with such happy memories of this route to the Premier League as Conor Hourihane.The Swansea City midfielder, who is entering the final weeks of a six-month loan from Aston Villa, was a scorer as his parent club negotiated their way to the top flight via this pathway two years ago. But trying to judge what the tide of history will wash ashore next is a difficult task, even for those most familiar with the Football League’s notorious end-of-season lottery.Steve Cooper’s Swans haven’t exactly limped into the playoffs, but they haven’t looked steady on their feet either. The team won only three of their last 11 Championship games of the regular season, and for a side that were second as recently as February, they go into the playoffs distinctly off their stride. At a time of year when fortune has historically favoured those with momentum, the omens don’t augur well.Get expert FPL tips, delivered straight to your inboxEmail address is invalidThank you for subscribing!Sorry, there was a problem with your subscription.More promising are fresh memories of a pair of victories against semi-final opponents Barnsley, 2-0 at the Liberty Stadium in December and again by the same scoreline at Oakwell the following month. The Tykes, who finished a place below Swansea in fifth, are this season’s surprise package. But 12 months ago, so were the Swans. History isn’t always the most reliable teacher. Championship play-offs Semi-final 1st leg: Bournemouth vs Brentford – 6pm on Monday 17 MayBarnsley vs Swansea City – 8.15pm on Monday 17 May Semi-final 2nd leg: Brentford vs Bournemouth – 12.30pm on Saturday 22 MaySwansea City vs Barnsley – 6.30pm on Saturday 22 May Final: Brentford or Bournemouth vs Swansea or Barnsley – 3pm on Saturday 29 May “It’s so often the one that sneaks into the playoffs with a bit of momentum that are the ones to watch,” says Hourihane. “They’re the dangerous ones. That was how it was with Villa [in 2019], we had a great second half of the season and crept in, and it’s exactly what Barnsley have done.”That experience with Villa is still fresh in the Ireland international’s mind. It was his equalising goal at Villa Park in a tense semi-final, drilled in superbly from 25 yards, that sparked the comeback that saw Dean Smith’s team past West Brom and through to Wembley. It was the culmination of a spirited fightback that saw Villa storm into the top six with 10 straight wins in the spring.The 30-year-old also knows the redemptive power of winning in the play-offs at the second crack, having lost the previous year’s final to Derby. But then his Swansea teammates have been here before too, losing out to Brentford in last season’s semi-final, who they could yet face at Wembley on 29 May.“People will point out that I’ve had recent history with the play-offs,” says Hourihane. “Being experienced in these games is so valuable, but I have to act on it. But the team have also had this experience last year themselves, and there’s a lot of heartache that they’ll be wanting to put right.
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. They’ve each of them got their own strengths in their own right. Barnsley have done fantastically to get into the playoffs, Brentford have been around this now for a couple of seasons, and Bournemouth are still strong from their time in the Premier League.“But they’ll look at us and see strengths. We’re ready for all of them.”Swansea fans will argue their team is the best equipped of the four to tackle a Premier League return, and with some justification. Marc Guehi, the England U21 international on loan from Chelsea, has been the Championship’s standout defender, whilst Ryan Bennett, Wayne Routledge and Andre Ayew remain stalwarts from the club’s last spell in the top flight. The emergence of Cooper as one of the Football League’s up and coming coaches is perhaps the club’s star turn. The Welshman, who had spells at Liverpool’s academy and in the England set-up before arriving at the Liberty in 2019, guided the Three Lions to victory at the U17 World Cup four years ago, but leading the Swans back to the Premier League – just as their parachute payments come to an end – would mark the crowning achievement of his short career so far.Swansea City boss Steve Cooper has a burgeoning reputation (Photo: Getty)“I can’t speak highly enough about the way they do things here, the way it’s run,” says Hourihane. “The manager and his team are fantastic people and they’ve given me an excellent welcome. The people that work here really do have the club’s best intentions at heart. It makes for a great environment.“We’re very organised, we get a lot of detail from the manager, everybody knows their role. There’s a lot of clarity here. But we’re not a one–man team. The manager has got a very tight unit here, and that’s our greatest strength.”Promotion with the Swans would pose a dilemma for Hourihane. He is still contracted to his parent club, and at 30 he believes he still has more to give in the Premier League. He played only four times for Villa this season before agreeing to this loan, and with the strides Smith’s team have made this term, breaking back into the side would be far from guaranteed.“I’ve not thought about what’s next,” he says. “First of all the only goal is to get the club over the line, there haven’t been any conversations in that direction yet. I don’t think it’s helpful to think about it now. My future is secondary to what happens in these next games with Swansea.”
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