Conor Hourihane: Aston Villa still targeting promotion despite summer of crisis
Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane insists that despite the club's disastrous summer, they will still be targeting promotion from the Championship this season.
Speaking from Villa's Portuguese pre-season training base, the Irish midfielder admitted that defeat in the play-off final is still hard to take, but something the players can't dwell on.
Steve Bruce's side were undone at Wembley by Fulham, with Tom Cairney's first-half strike enough to secure promotion for The Cottagers whilst simultaneously triggering a summer of crisis for Villa.
Following that defeat, financial struggles hit the club eventually resulting in Keith Wyness and Steve Round departing, followed by admissions from Bruce that numerous big names will be sold to meet FFP guidelines.
Hourihane's future is just one of many up for debate, but he re-affirmed his commitment to the club, insisting that promotion will be the aim next season.
"Obviously [it was] a great disappointment that we couldn't get over the line." he told the club website.
"We came so close with such a good group of players. It will hurt for a long time getting so close to getting the club back to somewhere close to where it should be.
"It wasn't to be so we have to get back, get working and see what we can go for this season.
"That kind of disappointment makes you hungry and makes you want to achieve something even more.
"You start the season off looking for promotion. Every team will say the same and we have to be in the mix.
"No matter who's here or who's not here, we're still going to have a good squad of players so we have to go for the promotion and everyone will be aiming for that."
The 27-year-old was one of Villa's key players last season, bagging 11 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions, and he's also keen to build on such a strong showing in the upcoming campaign.
"I was pleased with 11 goals, I felt I could have had more throughout the season - maybe get to 13, 14 or 15 [that] would've been a very good season." he said.
"Overall, I think I played 42 league games, scoring 11 goals it's hard not to be pleased with that.
"Goals are something I like doing, something I work hard for so a total like that isn't bad, but there's always room for improvements and that's something I'll be looking for this season.
"Each player brings different kind of attributes to teams, physicality, dribbling past people and something I bring to the team is goals.
"It's something I work hard for, I love scoring goals as a central midfielder.
"I'll be setting another target again and one of the targets will be to beat my tally that I had last year."
Meanwhile, the likes of Sam Johnstone, John Terry and Robert Snodgrass have already departed - but Hourihane believes the youngsters breaking through at Villa need to take their chance to fill their sizeable boots.
"We've got a very good squad of players, that's a fact really. You look through our squad, we had a big squad last year, we probably won't have a big squad next year but it's time for other people to step up into people shoes." he said.
"[It's] a chance for young lads as well, they won't get a better chance to break into a first-team.
"Yes, we've come off a disappointing season, not getting over the line but it's an exciting time as well to see what young lads can break through and keep us on our toes.
"The lads that were a main part of the team last year are just as hungry as ever and the young lads and those who might get more minutes this season will see how the season went last year and will be hungry to get involved.
"Hopefully we can build on getting close last year and hopefully put another group of players together to go for another push."