Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce says Conor Hourihane has found it hard to deal with the “expectation” of being at one of the Championship’s biggest clubs.Much was expected when Hourihane signed from Barnsley in January, six days after fellow midfielder Henri Lansbury had also signed for a seven-figure sum.The 26-year-old scored a hat-trick in Saturday’s 4-2 home win over Norwich.
“In January, they were the top two midfielders on goals and assists in the division,” Bruce told BBC Sport.”But they found quickly the expectation that comes on you here. Conor has found it difficult to deal with that expectation.”The same goes for Henri. It’s difficult when it’s so expected, but it’s the reason why we bought them.”They were big players at Barnsley and Nottingham Forest, but they’ve got to take that onto the big stage. We have to bring them out of their shell and perform.”The luxury of a goal-scoring midfielder Hourihane and Lansbury had remarkably similar goal-scoring records at their previous respective clubs.Former Sunderland, Ipswich and Plymouth Argyle player Hourihane scored 31 times in 135 appearances in two and a half seasons with Barnsley prior to joining Villa.Ex-Arsenal trainee Lansbury’s record was 33 goals in 150 appearances in his four and a half years at Forest.After the pair moved Villa Park, Hourihane scored just once in 17 games last season.Lansbury is still to break his duck but Hourihane has four goals in his past two games, including the first hat-trick of his career on Saturday, which was the first treble scored by a Villa player outside the top flight since Mark Walters in 1987.”I’m delighted for Conor,” added Bruce. “For a midfielder to score a hat-trick is a magnificent achievement. When he gets it on the edge of the box you think ‘goal’ as he practises them.”Villa face Wigan, one of Bruce’s old clubs, in the EFL Cup second round on Tuesday.
Source: BBC Black Country