At 18, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is perhaps the brightest prospect in Villa’s current crop of youngsters. The energetic striker has electric pace, an eye for goal and a cock-sure confidence that betrays his young years. He has got the tools to be a complete striker and any club in England would want him in their ranks. If moulded correctly, Hepburn-Murphy could be a super-star.
But, how many times have we heard that before?
There has been criticism thrown in the direction of Steve Bruce for not giving the youngster a shot in his misfiring team, especially since the return of one controversial figure.
For those who remember, Gabby Agbonlahor was touted to be a world-beater. Stuart Pearce, who ran the England youth squads during Gabby’s ascent said that he was one of the three best players he had coached. Ever. No matter his condition or ability now, there was a (short) time when Agbonlahor was considered to be one of the finest talents in England - with electric pace and an eye for goal. If moulded correctly, Agbonlahor could have been a superstar.
Now, where have we heard that before?
Aston Villa now find themselves in a weird situation and it seems to relate to the contract of Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. Villa’s manager, Steve Bruce, hinted that RHM’s playtime was stunted because of the lack of movement on the contract front. In fact, Steve Bruce hasn’t just hinted at anything, he’s come out guns blazing.
“He (Hepburn-Murphy) won’t be involved. He hasn’t signed his contract. The rest is up to him. We have made a fantastic offer to the young boy. Until he commits he won’t be involved. I involved him (at Cardiff) because I was informed he would sign but he hasn’t yet. Until he commits then I won’t commit to him. I would rather get a young player in who will commit.”
There seems to be no serious interest in Villa’s young gun right now, in fact, the only interest at all seems to be from Glasgow Rangers. That’s all well and good if he wants playing time, but Bruce has promised him that if he signs with Villa. Playing time for Aston Villa should be worth a bit more than playing time for Glasgow Rangers for RHM, because RHM has grew up a Villa.
So maybe there’s more to it than that?
Bruce holds all the cards here. There’s likely no contractual agreement in Hepburn-Murphy’s contract that states he will be played by Villa - he’s got to take a huge leap of faith and trust in Bruce, who could just slap him back in the reserves the second he signs.
If we step back from the situation, and look at it as a clear picture, it is Hepburn-Murphy who has everything to lose. It’s his money, his playing time and his career on the line here. He has every right to not sign with Aston Villa and especially so if he truly believes that Villa is not right for him. Could it be money that is the issue if we look at it like that? It is claimed by many that Rushian has been offered the biggest deal ever for an academy player at Aston Villa. One would assume he has been offered wages that could be anywhere from £15,000 a week up to £40,000 a week.
When you consider Rushian’s impact thus far - twelve whole minutes of Championsup game time - then that is insane money. INSANE. That being said, RHM has been killing it in the Premier League 2, where he has scored six goals in ten appearances for Aston Villa’s under 23 team. At that level, he has proved himself. However, in Steve Bruce’s world, he hasn’t - and this contract saga is damaging himself in Bruce’s eyes, every single second.
The trouble is that there seems to be no trust between Villa’s camp and Hepburn-Murphy’s camp. All RHM has to go on is the word of Steve Bruce, and promises don’t really work in football. Bruce can’t play Rushian just because they are pals and have got over this. Bruce has to play the best option for the team and if he, as the manager, deems that option to be Gabby Agbonlahor, then that is they way it goes. It’s likely that Hepburn-Murphy knows that as well.
If the stalling issue is money, that’s just a symptom of our society. Money talks and footballers have every single right to extract money from the game. There are people making serious dough on the backs of fans and footballers and it’s the ballers who are putting in the legwork. A footballer needs to make a lifetime of cash in five to ten years and their career could end at any time thanks to freak injuries.
No, you don’t need to feel sorry for Rushian who will earn two years of my wages in a week. I certainly don’t, but to level it out - we don’t know Rushian, his life goals and his plans. He might want to buy houses for every single member of his family. Who knows. There’s a reason behind his unwillingness to sign a contract and you know what, it matters not to any of us. It’s not an insult to Villa, it’s just - life. The best thing to do if Hepburn-Murphy does want to leave, and does want money, is to sign the contract, get paid, play some football and then kick up a fuss and engineer a move when the time comes - it is that simple. That’s what makes this so weird - THE MONEY IS THERE, IT’S ON THE TABLE!
I’m backing the club on this, we find stars every few years. There will be another RHM soon enough, as there will be another Jack Grealish, another Gabby Agbonlahor, another Darius Vassell, another Stefan Moore and so-on.
There’s only one Aston Villa though.