In the run down towards the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final and afterwards, the writers here at The Claret and View are voting on who they believe deserve a number of awards, including ‘Player of the Season’, ‘Young Player of the Season’ and more.
For our first award, the ‘One to Watch’ award, we whittled down the choices into a number of candidates, including James Bree, Andre Green, Matija Sarkic, Harvey Knibbs and Keinan Davis.
But the vote swayed in the favour of one player in particular, the young Villa forward Rushian Hepburn-Murphy.
Hepburn-Murphy has been around the periphery of first team football at Villa Park since the days of Tim Sherwood – but a number of different managers with different philosophies have somewhat stopped him from truly claiming his place in the first team squad.
In 2015, Rushian made his first team debut in a 4-0 win against Sunderland in the Premier League, coming on for a sultry seven minutes to close out the game. A year later, he played for a minute in a 0-0 draw against Newcastle United at home.
Villa’s relegation to the Sky Bet Championship saw Hepburn-Murphy get a little more game time, with 3 appearances against Newcastle (a 1-1 draw), Cardiff (a 1-0 loss) and Fulham (a 3-1 loss). That year he amassed 24 minutes of first team game time.
The same year however, he played in 12 games in the Premier League 2 for Villa’s U23 side, scoring 7 goals.
This season has seen Rushian considered a little more for first team football, with the forward playing in three Sky Bet Championship games (the 1-0 win at Middlesbrough, the 5-0 win against Bristol and the 1-0 loss at Bolton) – getting 58 minutes of Championship football under his belt.
He also made appearances in the FA Cup in our 3-1 loss against Peterborough at home, and our 2-1 win against Colchester United away in the EFL Cup.
But it’s for the U23’s this season that the 19 year old has really shone. In seven league games, Rushian has netted seven goals and assisted one – and is sure to be a key player in the U23 Play-Off Final against Brighton on Saturday. Hepburn-Murphy has also shone in the PL Cup.
Whilst the forward has been on the scene for a number of years now, the hot prospect is still only 19 and is the youngest player to play for Aston Villa during the Premier League era.
The Aston-born striker is certainly one to watch, having cemented himself in the thoughts of many a Villan after his recent performances for the youth side.