It is tiring to reading reports of the massive potential that Rushian Hepburn-Murphy possesses straight after virtually every U23 game he plays in only for him to never be afforded a chance in the first team.
I know he has had problems with injury lately. These have often kept him sidelined for months at a time but there have been several chances to include him in squads. This goes back a year or two and the manager, at the time, has not done so.
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‘Experience’ has been the status quo when it comes to filling the Aston Villa bench for some time now. Even when it is clear they have very little future at the club or nearing the end of their contracts such as Agbonlahor, Elphick and even Bjarnason.
All fans saw how well Callum O’Hare played in the cup earlier this season but he has hardly had a kick in the league. This is even before the return of Jack Grealish. He has demonstrated that he is more than deserving of a spot on the bench ahead of Bjarnason who has done very little when called upon.
We all know how good a player Keinan Davis has become in such a short space of time. He has taken advantage of injuries to Kodjia and Agbonlahor to force his way into the team. After the return of those two forwards, Davis still kept his spot in the squad.
To be fair to Steve Bruce, he didn’t have to make that decision to keep Davis in the team after the senior striker’s return but felt Davis deserved his spot in the first team. Andre Green is another youngster Bruce has developed into a first-team star before his injury. In light of this, it would be unfair to label Bruce anti-youth.
In the coming weeks, I would like to see a chance for Hepburn-Murphy now that he is back fit and scoring for the U23s. A few appearances from the bench, especially during this hectic festive period, would add an extra dimension of pace to the team. It would give other youngsters the confidence to keep pushing and working hard.
They would do this with the knowledge that if they are good enough, they will get a chance under Bruce.
As a fan, I would feel like Hepburn-Murphy and O’Hare coming off the bench when we are chasing a game are far more likely to change the course of the match than the predictable Gabby Agbonlahor and Birkir Bjarnason. The two younger players would add a bit of flair and exuberance often missing from this Aston Villa side.