By Noel Whelan

23rd Dec, 2019 | 4:48pm

Exclusive: Whelan tips Aston Villa player to snatch first-team chance after worrying update

Noel Whelan has backed Conor Hourihane to replace Aston Villa mainstay John McGinn after the Scottish international’s serious injury blow.

The former Leeds and Coventry hitman, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, says that the Republic of Ireland international is a very good player to have as backup in times of need.

Villa confirmed that McGinn suffered an ankle fracture in the 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Saturday, national reports suggesting he could be out of action for up to three months.

Whelan says that Hourihane has the ability to step up in his teammate’s absence, the 28-year-old having struggled to put together a run of starts since the club’s return to the Premier League.

“He’s been good when he’s come in, that’s the good thing about it,” Whelan told Football Insider.

“He’s been scoring goals, creating goals so he’s not a bad replacement to have. That’s the good thing about Aston Villa – they’ve got central midfield players, British central midfield players that know what it’s all about.

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“They know the work rate that needs to be put in, they have that English aggression as well but he certainly has that quality.

“As much as it’s a blow to lose a quality player like McGinn, to be able to bring in a Hourihane and give him that game time, that gives another opportunity to take that place.

“McGinn will have to work hard to take that place back if he produces.”

While Hourihane also started against Southampton, he had not featured in the club’s previous two Premier League matches.

He has played in 11 of the Villans’ 18 top-flight fixtures, eight of those coming among the starting XI, and has scored two and assisted two goals.

In other Aston Villa news, Alan Hutton claims that four Villa stars are facing the wrath of a fuming senior figure in training.