By Harry Sykes
Steve Bruce has revealed he is ready to fast-track Rushian Hepburn-Murphy into the Aston Villa team – if he signs a new contract.
Villa owner Tony Xia revealed on Twitter this week that the Midlands giants have offered a deal to the highly rated academy product.
The Sun have claimed that the striker, 18, is set to sign a new three-year contract to allay fears that he could quit when his current agreement expires at the end of the season.
But Bruce suggested on Friday that a deal is not yet done amid interest in the teenager from Manchester City and Watford.
However, the Villa boss is keen to promote Hepburn-Murphy into the senior set-up if he shows his commitment to the club by putting pen to paper.
“We need him to commit because he’s a big talent,” said Bruce, as quoted by the Birmingham Mail. “He’s in and around us with (Jonathan) Kodjia going away to the African Nations next month,
“If he does commit to the club then he will come right into contention because of what he has done with the Under-23s.
“He’s been here since he was eight years old and I’m sure this is the right place for him.
“He is a Villa fan, as are his family so we hope to get it over the line. We’ve done our bit and made him a great offer. It’s now up to the boy to decide where he sees his future.”
The youngster, who made his senior Villa debut at the age of just 16, has had only four minutes of Championship action this season.
But he has demonstrated his potential with five goals in nine Premier League 2 appearances.
Villa are 13th in the Championship after winning 1-0 at QPR last Sunday to lift them to within six points and seven places of Sheffield Wednesday in the final play-off spot.
Football Insider verdict:
Tying Hepburn-Murphy to a new deal is crucial for Villa. The club are content they have done what is needed by tabling what Bruce called a “great offer”. The ball is now in the court of the teenager, who, according to the word on the street, is the real deal. The Midlands giants will be aware of the political ramifications of failing to hold on to such a highly rated academy product, as fans are desperate to see another top player emerge from the club’s production line.
In other Aston Villa transfer news, a Premier League club has joined the race to sign a Villa ace and a £10million striker could move to the Midlands giants in part-exchange.