CONOR Hourihane says Barnsley fans should not expect him to play anything like the same role he did during his excellent first spell at the club, but hopes his second stint will be just as successful.

The Irish midfielder, who captained the Reds to promotion in 2016, returned to the club as player/coach last month after leaving Derby County.

Hourihane is one of the most popular Barnsley players in recent decades, having lifted two trophies at Wembley and made 135 appearances but, at 33, he no longer expects to play every week.

Hourihane told the Chronicle: “People need to realise that the young energetic captain Conor Hourihane who made all the memories is in the past.

“It will be a lot different this time but hopefully different in a nice way.

“The opportunity is there to make new memories.

“Who knows how much I will play? But I can still have a big influence on the players and around the club.

“It will be challenging. I am training to get a base of fitness but then I will get involved in coaching more.

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“I am in on the coaching meetings, people are coming to me for advice.

“It’s something I am really enjoying. I am just keen to get my teeth into it.”

Hourihane was one of the first group of players brought in when then owner Patrick Cryne adopted a data-led approach of signing young talents in 2014.

The young squad was helped the following season by the arrival of Adam Hammill for a second spell with the Reds, achieving promotion later that season.

Although a different character to Hammill, Hourihane is hoping his second spell can also provide experience and inspiration despite not playing every game.

“I can bring a little bit of experience in the dressing room and on the pitch, helping lads.

“Whether I am playing or not, I feel I can have an influence because it’s a young squad.

“When I was making my way there were coaches who really wanted to help me.

“That’s something I can really focus on – improving performances and giving lads that vital advice.”

When he does play, Hourihane could feature alongside highly-rated midfielders Luca Connell and Adam Phillips who he has played against previously for Derby.

“I really like them both. I have had tough games against them.

“They are different. Luca is a really technically good footballer, Phillo is obviously more powerful and a strong runner who can get you a goal. They play together really well and bring out each other’s strengths.

“To have them in the midfield is brilliant and something the team can build on.”

Connell has ambitions of representing the Republic of Ireland – having played for the youth teams – and reaching the top level of club football.

Does former Ireland international and Premier League player Hourihane think he can?

“Without a doubt. I have spoken to Luca already about the opportunity to have a really good season. He missed some football last season but he will have a really good pre-season and hit the ground running. There is a huge opportunity for him.”

Hourihane will be working under Darrell Clarke who has managed in more than 600 games and won five promotions.

“He’s an amazing guy. The first impressions have been really good and I am really grateful to him and the staff to have trust in me to help the club. I will always be grateful for that first opportunity and that break because you need that in life. I will repay him with whatever he needs from me.”

The aim this season is to get promoted, having lost in the play-offs for the last two seasons.

Hourihane said: “I know the fans demand to be up around the top end. I have seen it as a player and coming back as an opponent.

“Everyone in the club knows that and hopefully the players do as well.”