After watching the Bristol Rovers game last Wednesday, I found myself thinking ‘same old Villa’. We were brilliant at passing the ball sideways and keeping it at the back but, whenever we wanted to go up field and attempt an attack, nothing was being created. It just felt like we were watching Villa from last season and the fans were chanting for Roberto Di Matteo to sign a new, creative striker.
While a proven striker is needed, we have at our disposal rising star Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, who is already putting his mark on the team.
The game against Cambridge United on Tuesday night is a perfect example of why the young man is capable of playing up front. He may be small but he is very quick and determined to win the ball, fight off defenders and go forward. Considering he is only seventeen, he can play decent football.
Of course, we all know that playing young players in important matches could damage their morale so we didn’t see as much of him as we might have done before he suffered a fracture last season.
Hepburn-Murphy has been in the Villa ranks for some time now. He came on in the 0-4 win against Sunderland in March 2015 when Tim Sherwood was at the helm, having impressed Sherwood with his goal-scoring record for Aston Villa’s Under-18 side. He became Aston Villa’s youngest ever Premier League player, an honour that had fallen previously to Gareth Barry. He was perhaps only introduced as a substitute to get experience of a Premier League match but he has recently made more appearances at senior level and, having seen him start up front against Bristol Rovers, it seemed like pressure doesn’t get to the young man.
By giving him a chance, Di Matteo is making the player more confident, giving him belief that he can make an impact in the senior squad and even win games for us.
Considering this, I feel that Di Matteo has been wise to look closely at what we have in Jordan Ayew, Rudy Gestede and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. It’s important for the manager to assess whether he can use the players we have now in the same team, getting them to gel whilst having each one play differently. Gestede is tall and good at heading the ball from decent crosses. Ayew can run with the ball and, given the chance, can score beautiful goals. Hepburn-Murphy has brilliant agility and, from what I have seen, he always has his head up looking for a pass. This is what we have been missing in our game -a player who can create things, move quickly and score.
Ayew and Hepburn-Murphy could start together and could form a decent partnership. With the likes of Gardner, Baker, Clark, Grealish, Lyden and Green all in the squad , it would be nice to see our own academy graduates used correctly and helped to develop as the club works towards a return to the top flight. Signing a new striker is a must for most fans but I would hope that we won’t see another young talent wasted.