CONOR Hourihane is ready to make his presence felt with Aston Villa this season.
The Bandon man joined the Villains in the January transfer window but struggled to make the impact that he was hoping for as he was in and out of the team that finished a disappointing 13th in the Championship â but with a full pre-season under his belt, he feels he'll make his mark in the new campaign.
âI probably didn't realise how tough the transition would be moving in January,' Hourihane told The Southern Star.
âI didn't realise the size of the club until I got here. I knew it was a big club in the Championship but I didn't realise the size of it. I'd be going into a game on a Saturday and there would be fans there from all over the world whereas with Barnsley there'd be fans from Yorkshire and your odd few from London. With Villa there are fans from everywhere, and a lot of Irish which is great to see.
âHaving to move from Barnsley to Villa in general, it took me a while to get set up, I had to live in a hotel for quite a while; that's okay for a few weeks but it's not ideal over three, four months.
âI'm settled in now to an area, it's made me feel more at home so personally I am feeling better about the whole thing.'
With Villa busy in the transfer market this summer as Bruce assembles a squad he feels will get the club back into the Premier League, Hourihane knows he will have to battle for his place in the first team; a new challenge for the former Barnsley and Plymouth Argyle captain.
âI am ready to go,' he said.
âIt's going to be a bit different because Villa have a very big squad compared to some of the teams that I have been involved with before, so I need to put myself in a position where I'm in the team, or I might be in and out of the team, and ultimately I want to be involved in a successful side.
âIt's been a great journey for me so far and getting to the Premiership with Villa is my best bet to get there.
âWe've a very good squad, a proven manager and we've all said that we need to pull together this season to make it happen.'
The West Cork man is under no illusions this season â promotion is a must for Villa. End of.
âThat's obviously the first goal this season to get promoted, the play-offs are a minimum, and anything other than that would be a failure if I am being brutally honest,' Hourihane said.
âIf we don't make the play-offs with the squad that we have and the money that has been spent, that's a failure.
âThere is a big expectation from the supporters and the outside world, they're looking at us and expecting us to go up. That's new territory for me; I've never played under that type of pressure before. With my previous clubs we were in the mix of trying to get promoted â but it's a must at this club to be successful.
âWe're by far the biggest club in the Championship and we are aiming for promotion this season â that's one of the reasons why I came here â so we will all have to knuckle down to try and achieve that.'
And it goes without saying that a good season for Bandon man Hourihane with Aston Villa will help his chances of adding to the two Republic of Ireland senior caps he's picked up this year.