Dean Smith explains how he has angered Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane

Dean Smith, Manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to the Premier League match between Aston Villa and AFC Bournemouth  at Villa Park on August 17, 2019 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Conor Hourihane scored twice as Aston Villa battered Crewe Alexandra 6-1 in the Carabao Cup second round.

Conor Hourihane of Aston Villa scores for Aston Villa during the Carabao Cup second round match between Crewe Alexandra and Aston Villa at Gresty Road on August 27, 2019 in Crewe, England.

It might have ‘only’ been Crewe Alexandra and it might have ‘only’ been the Carabao Cup, but Conor Hourihane certainly arrived at Gresty Road determined to make his mark on the second round tie.

And, 90 minutes later, he could relish in a performance that surely pushes him back into Dean Smith’s first-team plans after he was left on the bench for each of the last two Premier League games.

Hourihane was restored to his favoured attacking midfield role and repaid his manager with two goals, including a thumping close-range header, as Aston Villa hit Crewe for six.

 

And Smith was understandably pleased to see the Republic of Ireland international respond in style, admitting that Hourihane was far from pleased to learn that he had slipped behind Douglas Luiz in the pecking order after the opening day defeat to Tottenham.

"[He didn't take it] very well [being dropped],” Smith told the Birmingham Mail after the 6-1 win. "I don't want any of the players to be happy that they're not playing and he certainly wasn't.

"I brought Douglas in for the Bournemouth game but what he's done is knuckle down in training, got on with his job. He's a great professional and an international for a reason. He'll have a big part to play this season. I've just put Douglas in front of him at the moment.

Dean Smith head coach of Aston Villa in action during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton FC at Villa Park on August 23, 2019 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

"It's not my job to keep them happy, it's their job to keep me happy. I pick 11 players who I believe can win a game and they've got to get into that team.”

Hourihane has mostly played at the base of midfield since Smith took over from Steve Bruce in October 2018 but he made his name at Plymouth Argyle and Barnsley as a goalscoring playmaker, finding the net 28 times in his final two seasons at Oakwell.

But with Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba fighting for a place in the ‘number six’ role and with Jack Grealish and John McGinn starting the season impressively, life isn’t going to get any easier for Hourihane going forward.

Conor Hourihane of Aston Villa applauds the fans after the Carabao Cup Second Round match between Crewe Alexandra and Aston Villa at Gresty Road on August 27, 2019 in Crewe, England.

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