CONOR Hourihane is back at Barnsley FC.

The double Wembley-winner and fan favourite returned to Oakwell on Wednesday afternoon to complete a deal which had been close for some time, and was then announced as a player/coach on Thursday.

There are various nuances to the deal but, overall, it is a signing which makes a lot of sense.

The Irishman could play his 600th club game in the upcoming season, and is five goals away from his 100th.

He has won three promotions, and reached the play-offs on three other occasions, playing in the Premier League and EFL Cup final for Aston Villa.

Hourihane has appeared in six club finals at Wembley, and played there against England for the Republic of Ireland for whom he appeared in two play-off campaigns for major tournaments.

That is invaluable experience to inject into a Barnsley young squad and the type of ‘been there and done it’ knowhow the Reds were sorely lacking during their poor end to last season which culminated in a play-off defeat.

The signing is also likely to generate some real positivity for the majority of the fans, who adored Hourihane in his first spell and still think of him as one of the club’s best players of the last two decades.

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After the difficult finish to last season, a series of off-the-field gaffes, the opinion-splitting sacking of Neill Collins after 45 league games, and a dramatic search for his replacement, there was not a particularly cheery mood around the town in relation to the football club.

But appointment of Darrell Clarke as head coach was generally met with approval and now this move will build on that momentum – with several more signings now needed especially in goal, at left wing-back and up front.

Clearly all that really matters is what the Reds do on the pitch from August, but the return of Hourihane is likely to generate more good will and breathing space as they attempt to rebuild a squad and launch another promotion charge.

But how much will he play?

Signing a 33-year-old who, by all accounts, is not quite the all-action midfielder of his previous Oakwell spell, does not seem totally in-sync with the footballing philosophy of the club which is all about energy and high-pressing.

But his fitness is not in question and they obviously feel they can make it work.

The noises from in and around the club are that he won’t necessarily be a regular starter, with coaching a big part of his role, but will still contribute on the pitch.

It will be up to Clarke to rotate him wisely throughout the campaign, as he will be better suited to some opponents than others.

With younger players around him – ‘legs’ to use modern football speech – Hourihane’s quality on the ball, especially from set pieces where the Reds have struggled recently, leadership and game management could be vital even if he is not the talismanic ever-present of eight years ago.

Luca Connell and Adam Phillips – if a ‘silly’ offer does not tempt the club to sell one – are likely to be among the first names on the team sheet when they are at their best.

But they will surely benefit from working with someone like Hourihane, whose rise to the top level they want to emulate.

The other midfielders are Jon Russell, Matty Wolfe, Josh Benson and Callum Styles – although there are doubts about some of their Reds’ futures for various reasons.

Going forward, Hourihane could be an important figure in the future of the club, as he is keen to build a career in management while Barnsley say they like to promote coaches from their set-up who understand the philosophy of the club.

In the short-term it is a feelgood announcement that has generated a buzz around Barnsley FC again. Let’s hope it lasts.