'Really talented' - Exclusive: Whelan raves over 'Fantastic' Villa player giving Smith headache

Noel Whelan has been left raving over the performance of Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane and insists he is pushing his teammates for a place in Dean Smith’s starting XI.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Leeds United striker says that the Republic of Ireland international did everything he needed to in the 3-1 win over Brighton in the League Cup.

Hourihane netted his third goal of the competition against the Seagulls in what was his first start since the second-round win over Crewe Alexandra back at the end of August, having played just 24 minutes in the last five Premier League games.

Having seen a number of shock results in the League Cup, Whelan insists that Hourihane and Villa showed Brighton and the cup the respect it deserves and that the midfielder is keeping himself in Smith’s thinking.

Whelan told Football Insider: “He’s a fantastic midfield player, we’ve known that since he was at Barnsley, the quality that he possessed. At the minute it goes to show the strength in depth that Aston Villa have. 

“He’s not done himself any harm. You look at Hourihane, McGinn and Grealish, that’s a really talented three in midfield but unfortunately, he can only choose two of them.

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“He’s not done himself any harm, when you look at players off the bench and you want them to come on and be professional, Hourihane and Aston Villa have shown the bigger clubs how to go about the job and how to be professional, not disrespect the team.

“That’s how you put the name Hourihane into the manager’s mind for the next game. He’s pushing Grealish, he’s pushing McGinn.” 

Hourihane has played five times across all competitions for the Villans so far, although he has been included in every matchday squad by the manager.

In other Aston Villa news, Alan Hutton claims that one axed Villa star has been “unbelievable” on the training ground.