The Birmingham Mail have reported today that youngster Rushian Hepburn Murphy will join Villa’s senior squad on their pre-season training camp in Portugal next month, with plans in place to integrate him into the first team in the upcoming campaign.
With the current financial crisis at the club, the news that youngsters may be called upon to do a job next season comes as no surprise. For Aston Villa fans, it seems that the pit of misery grows ever deeper as each day passes this summer, but this potential blooding of the youth is perhaps the solitary silver lining that they can find.
Striking talisman loanee Lewis Grabban has returned to Bournemouth, Keinan Davis is attracting interest from elsewhere and high earners Jonathan Kodjia and Scott Hogan may be put up for sale as the club desperately search for some cash. Clearly, there is an opportunity for RHM.
The 19-year-old Hepburn-Murphy seems to have been around for an age. Indeed, it was over three years ago that he made his debut for the first team. Unsurprisingly, it came during the tenure of Tim Sherwood, who has a history in promoting youth players. An emphatic 4-0 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in March 2015 saw RHM become the second-youngest Villa player in history. Since then, a combination of injuries and managers who are perhaps less trusting of teenagers have meant that the explosive forward has spent far more time with the under 23s than with the seniors.
And what a time he has had with the under 23s. It has been a campaign to remember this time round for the group coached by Kevin MacDonald and Mark Delaney. The young lions were cup winners and enjoyed an excellent league campaign (only to fall short in the play-off final like their senior counterparts). RHM found the net nine times in total to prove his goal-scoring ability, but also offered much more in a side that played dynamic football on the front foot. His pace and clean feet, as well as his ability to link up with the likes of Callum O’Hare and Corey Blackett-Taylor, made him one of the top performers in the PL2 division.
Let’s hope Hepburn-Murphy’s rise can provide some positivity in this bleak time for Aston Villa.