Never mind Grealish: Forgotten AVFC man’s masterclass would have left Smith purring – opinion

After yet another supreme performance for England, it’s been no surprise to see Jack Grealish’s name once again hit the headlines.

But whilst the Aston Villa star produced a fine display in the Three Lions’ victory over Iceland on Wednesday night, one of his teammates at club level also delivered a timely performance: Conor Hourihane.

With John McGinn and Douglas Luiz holding down the two central midfield positions for Dean Smith’s side this season in the Premier League, Hourihane hasn’t had much of a look-in thus far, making just three appearances and 151 minutes of soccer.

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When on international duty with Ireland however, it’s been a different story, featuring in all of their UEFA Nations League and friendly games over the past couple of months.

And against Bulgaria on Wednesday, Hourihane sent a message to Dean Smith that he’s ready to be called upon whenever he’s needed. Whilst the game ended in a 0-0 draw, the midfielder showed off his typically silky passing, and a more defensive edge too.

As per Sofascore, his 7.4 match rating was the highest of any midfield player on the pitch, and it was easy to see why. He boasted an impressive 92% pass accuracy and 73 touches, whilst he also sent in five crosses and completed seven of his ten attempted long balls.

That’s not to mention that he made a team-high four tackles – including one last ditch one – and one interception too. If Smith was keeping an eye out on how his players were getting on over the international break, then he would have been left impressed by Hourihane’s display in mid-week.

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