RUMOURS circulating that Conor Hourihane almost joined Wrexham this summer are wide of the mark, according to his agent and former Barnsley captain Brian Howard.

The 33-year-old Irish midfielder signed a multi-year contract at Oakwell earlier this month and is due to end his playing career at Barnsley in two years.

He will work alongside new head coach Darrell Clarke as a first-team coach and his agent Howard, who is a co-owner of Momentum Sports Management, said that was a key part of the deal to bring him back to the town.

He told the Chronicle: “Conor was keen to still play but he wanted to start that path into coaching.

“With Derby getting promoted, we didn’t feel that he’d get that opportunity there.

“There were a few clubs that were interested but as soon as he knew Barnsley were interested he’d made his mind up.”

Rumours were circulating online that Conor had turned down a big-money offer from League One newcomers Wrexham - owned by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney - but Howard says this was never the case.

“Wrexham weren’t one of the clubs interested,” he added.

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“We never spoke to Wrexham.

“We only had conversations with Barnsley once they showed their interest.

“It took about six or seven weeks to get the deal sorted.

“We had to get his contract cancelled at Derby and then a player/coach contract isn’t as simple as a normal playing contract.”

Howard played 137 times for the Reds, scoring 28 goals including a last-minute winner at Liverpool in the FA Cup fifth round in 2008, before leaving to join Sheffield United in 2008.

The 41-year-old has a number of ex-Reds on his books including Jacob Brown, Jordan Clark and George Maris.

He says knowing how Barnsley operate and what the supporters expect makes it easy to bring players to the club.

“I talked to Conor about the club - we both know about it so well,” he added.

“It’s a great club - the fans get behind you.

“We both have such fond memories there.

“It helps that I know the club, being an agent.

“Jordan Clark is one that helps as he was a ball boy when I was playing.

“Jacob (Brown) has had a brilliant few years and he’s unlucky to have picked up an injury otherwise he’d have probably been in Germany at the Euros.”

Howard, a midfielder with a wand of a left foot, admits there are some similarities between himself and Barnsley’s returning hero.

“We talk a lot about it,” he said.

“Barnsley seem to have always had that type of midfielder.

“They always seem to be left-footed as well.

“Hopefully with Conor back it will be able to get the fans excited.”

Does he still get the same buzz as an agent that he did as a player?

“Nothing can compare to playing,” he said.

“We’ve (alongside Phil Korklin) been doing this for seven years now and I’ve transitioned into it.

“It’s been a quiet market so far but we’ve managed to get a lot done.

“We always want to make sure that we can get the players in before pre-season starts.

“The transfer window is different as a player.”

He admits he regrets not returning to Oakwell himself as a player - but he did come close towards the end of his career.

“I nearly came back to Oakwell the year before I retired,” he said.

“I came up and met with Danny Wilson but we couldn’t get it done.

“It’s always been a regret that we couldn’t get it over the line.

“Now Conor’s back I’m hoping that I’ll be able to come down to watch the Reds play more often.”