‘I was young and naive... I simply wasn’t ready’ - Premier League midfielder reflects on Town spell
Premier League midfielder Conor Hourihane believes his short spell with Ipswich Town under Roy Keane helped him reach the top of the English game.
The Irishman, now at Aston Villa, was brought to Portman Road from Sunderland by Keane in the summer of 2010 but never made a senior appearance for the Blues before departing for Plymouth a year later.
But, having worked his way up from League Two to the top flight, the 29-year-old believes his experience at Portman Road helped him on his journey.
“At Sunderland it felt like I was going down a cul-de-sac really. I tried to go out on loan a couple of times and had interest from teams, although it didn’t end up going anywhere,” he told The Athletic’s Going Up, Going Down podcast.
“I was searching for that break of first-team football and I thought for some reason that it would happen at Ipswich when they came along, with Roy being an influence again.
“A few Sunderland players had made that switch and I thought, ‘let’s have a go’.
“Me being a young, naive 19-year-old, I thought, ‘yeah I’ll get first-team football here’, but looking back now as a 29-year-old, there’s no way I was going to play first-team football there. ‘Come on, Conor’.
MORE: Garbutt on football’s financial support and health secretary Matt Hancock’s ‘undermining’ comments“If I’m being brutally honest then I probably wasn’t ready. Looking back. I probably felt that moving from Sunderland to Ipswich, dropping a league, would mean I would get the games I always wanted.
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“I was naïve to the Championship as well and having now played in it for many years I know it’s a fantastic league with fantastic players. I wasn’t ready at the time.
“Roy being under pressure might have played a part in it. If he had been a bit more comfortable then I might have got some game-time, who knows.
“There were many factors why I didn’t play there, really.
“It didn’t work out but I enjoyed my year there, it was a fantastic club, and it ultimately helped me get to where I am today.”
Things have turned out well for Hourihane, but his career may have taken a different course were it not for Plymouth’s interest at the end of his Ipswich contract.
“When I moved from Ipswich to Plymouth, that was the only option I had other than going back to Ireland and coming through again,” he admitted.
“I was probably still young enough at that time to ‘do a Shane Long or a Kevin Doyle’ and come up through the League of Ireland before coming back to England.
“I didn’t want to be the lad who failed in England and go back to Cork being the nearly guy who never made it. Plymouth was my only choice.”