I have never before seen so much debate about a player who is yet to even start a first team game for Aston Villa as Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is currently causing.
The eighteen-year-old is branded as one of the hottest properties at Villa Park. He has been in sparkling form for the Villans’ Under 23 side this season and was the Premier League 2 player of the month for September.
At the same time as Hepburn-Murphy is making waves in youth football, Gabby Agbonlahor has quietly, or not so quietly, re-emerged in the Villa first team.
Anyone who regularly reads my blogs will know I find the ideaa of Agbonlahor still being around the club distasteful but he is one factor in the debate that has opened up about Hepburn-Murphy.
Agbonlahor has come back into the fold under Steve Bruce, despite previously being given numerous chances to prove his worth at the club . Meanwhile, young Hepburn-Murphy has been knuckling down and has still not been given a proper chance with the first team, leading to disputes about his exclusion and Agbonlahor’s inclusion.
I understand that Hepburn-Murphy has a lot of ability but, at such a tender age, that is no reason to put him on the bench over others. Steve Bruce is a manager with sixteen years’ experience and was before that a player; if anyone understands when someone is ready to make the step up it is him. He also knows the Championship like the back of his hand so to question the decision not to play Hepburn-Murphy is short-sighted.
I do not believe that Agbonlahor deserves another crack of the whip at Villa Park, although I certainly do not believe that Hepburn-Murphy should be immedietely pushed into the spotlight. We are coming out of one of the worst periods of form in years in the history of Aston Villa Football Club, with the crowd at Villa Park still on tenterhooks despite the team being unbeaten in five games. I do not believe that this moment in time is the right one to chuck Hepburn-Murphy into the starting line-up. The fact that he is raw could do us a huge favour in games and he could offer us the unexpected but, equally, he could flounder in front of a crowd that is too quick to turn on players and cast judgement.
The opportunities for Hepburn-Murphy will come thick and fast as the next few months pass. With multiple fixtures and players going off to the AFCON tournament, the youngster should soon have his chance to shine in an Aston Villa shirt.
Some fans are worrying about losing Hepburn-Murphy to another club, given recent speculation about his future, but I really cannot see the club officials losing him. Furthermore, if he is having his head turned then I would question his attitude if he believes he should be getting a chance in Villa’s senior side at present.
There is a long way to go before Hepburn-Murphy is a regular first team player at Aston Villa and he has lessons to learn and developing to do. If Bruce left him out of the squad on Saturday after suggesting he would be involved, he must have had a valid reason for doing so.
I see a lot of ability in Hepburn-Murphy, as I have done in many others who played in our youth ranks, but fans need to take a step back and not put too much pressure on this young man’s shoulders. The last thing he needs is to be expected to produce wonders as soon as he gets into the Villa first team.
With regard to Agbonlahor coming on instead of Hepburn-Murphy on Saturday, I actually thought that he put himself about a bit and played an integral part in the victory.
Let’s just give Bruce the credit he deserves; he knows the squad better than any fan. Just enjoy the fact that we are unbeaten in five games and moving up the table.