Darren Bent says that Conor Hourihane’s new contract is “brilliant news” for Aston Villa after impressing on the way to play-off glory last season.

The former Villa and England striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insists that the Republic of Ireland international is well-deserving of his new deal with the club and that the next step is to prove he has the quality to be a Premier League.

Villa confirmed on Saturday that the 28-year-old had put pen to paper on a contract extension which keeps him tied down in the midlands, having made 111 appearances for the club.

Bent says that while it took a while for Hourihane to get going at Villa Park, he has started to show the very best of his abilities, comparing him to a more mobile version of former Villa star Glenn Whelan.

Bent told Football Insider: “He’s been good since he got there, very, very good. Key goals at crucial times and he became a real anchor in that midfield.

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“I very much think he’s like a Glenn Whelan but with legs. He can run, get about, so yeah, I’m a big fan of his. He showed signs when he first got there, he took a little while to settle in but when the moment he did settle in he showed his best form.

“It’s brilliant news for himself, his family and Aston Villa fans as well. It’s just about him now making that step up.” 

The Cork-born ace, who has played in every division of the English Football League for the likes of Villa, Barnsley and Plymouth Argyle, was a mainstay in the side last season, missing just three league games under Steve Bruce and Dean Smith.

He set his teammates up with 12 assists as well as scoring nine goals of his own across all competitions, including netting in the play-off semi-final first leg against fierce rivals West Brom.

In other Aston Villa news, it can be REVEALED that a Villa forward is in advanced talks over joining a new club for next season.