Alan Hutton has suggested that Aston Villa manager Dean Smith will have been secretly delighted to see Conor Hourihane left on the bench for the Republic of Ireland’s defeat to Switzerland on Tuesday night.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Villa and Scotland star says it will have been disappointing for the midfielder not to have featured in his country’s European qualifier but that it leaves him fresh for his club’s clash versus Brighton on Saturday.

The Republic of Ireland suffered their first defeat in their qualifying group on Tuesday, Switzerland sealing a 2-0 win in Geneva thanks to a Haris Seferovic strike and an own goal from Shane Duffy.

With Hourihane taking no part in the tie, Mick McCarthy leaving him as an unused substitute, Hutton says that club boss Smith will be a little pleased he has a fully fit player returning to Villa Park.

Hutton told Football Insider: “It must be difficult for managers, international week, their players going away, they maybe sit with their head behind a cushion for the games thinking: ‘Will the players come back a-ok?’ 

“Obviously I know Conor, he’ll want to play every minute for both Ireland and Villa but these things happen. On one hand for Villa, you can see it that he’s played brilliant in his last game, he’s come back fit, he’s obviously still training, he’ll be raring to go and he’ll want to put in a shift for Villa now because he’ll be disappointed he didn’t play the other night. 

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

Hourihane scored and assisted a goal in Villa’s 5-1 thrashing of Norwich City in their last Premier League game, with the 28-year-old starting just his third top-flight match of the campaign.

However, Smith has started the 12-cap international in the club’s last two top-flight outings and could do so again against Brighton on Saturday.

In other Aston Villa news, Alan Hutton claims that a 26-year-old is “well worth the money” for Villa after a transfer claim.