Inspirational Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane has completed his move to Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee – and immediately paid tribute to the ‘great club and fans’ he has left behind.
Irishman Hourihane has penned a three-and-a-half year deal with Villa, joining fellow Barnsley team-mate James Bree who had signed for Steve Bruce’s men 24 hours earlier.
There are add-ons and sell-on clauses included in both deals.
Hourihane told the Oakwell Club’s official website: “I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone connected to Barnsley Football Club; from the owner, to the Head Coach, the backroom staff, and of course to the supporters who have been amazing to me throughout my time at Oakwell.
“Having joined the club as a young midfielder from the lower leagues, Barnsley has helped me to develop and progress immensely both as a footballer and as a person.
“I will always be grateful to everyone at the club for what they have allowed me to achieve. In a footballers’ career, it’s not often that you get the chance to work with a club that is willing to passionately dedicate so much time and effort to improving and developing players, so I feel very lucky to have enjoyed two-and-a-half years at this great club.”
“The memories that I will take from Barnsley will stay with me forever – lifting two trophies at Wembley to name just a few of the special moments that we have shared!
“It was fitting that in my last game for the club I scored in a superb win over local rivals Leeds United. I certainly enjoyed that one and it feels like I am leaving on an incredible high.
“After the journey that we’ve been on and the success that we’ve had, particularly over the past 12 months, it was a very tough decision to leave Barnsley and I had to think long and hard about what was right for my long term career. Barnsley has been great to me over my time here and I’d like to think that I’ve been good to you and I leave with the club in a better place. Make no mistake, Barnsley is a club that is on the rise and Oakwell has a very bright future.
“Being captain at the club was the biggest honour that I’ve had in my career so far, and I will be eternally thankful to the club for everything that it has done for me.
“Barnsley Football Club will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you again and I wish the club all the very best for the future. You Reds!”
In a statement, Barnsley FC said: “Conor made it clear to the board that he saw the move as an opportunity to further his career and he wanted to pursue the move. Under these circumstances, and considering that Conor’s contract was coming to an end in the summer where he could transfer for free, the club respected that decision and reluctantly allowed him to move on for a significant fee and sell-on.
“Conor was a hugely popular figure at the club and we fully appreciate that this news will be met with disappointment from our tremendous supporters. The club firmly shares this sentiment. It is always difficult losing a player of Conor’s footballing and personal qualities, and allowing a player of his calibre to leave the club was never an easy decision.
“Throughout his two-and-a-half years at Oakwell, Conor has conducted himself with the upmost professionalism and respect and has been a credit to the club, his colleagues and the fans. He was a player who gave his all for the shirt, an exceptional servant to Barnsley Football Club, and a player who played a key role in the club’s rise from the League One relegation zone up to the brink of the Championship Play-Offs.
“Conor’s hard work and commitment has helped us build a strong foundation for future success here at Barnsley Football Club. We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to him for everything that he has helped the club achieve over his time here, and we wish him all the very best in his future career.”
Since joining the Reds in the summer of 2014, 25-year-old Hourihane made 134 appearances for the Reds, scoring 31 goals.
Of his move to Villa Park, Hourihane told the Villa website: “I’m really pleased to be here.
“Aston Villa are a massive club and I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my career and developing further as a player under Steve Bruce.”