By Will Butcher

Rangers face Premier League competition if they want to sign Aston Villa starlet Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, according to a report.

The Daily Record have claimed that the Gers watched the striker play for Villa’s Under-23 side on Monday, with Watford’s scouts also watching from the stands as the 18-year-old scored in a 2-1 defeat to Norwich.

However, both Rangers and Watford may struggle to lure Hepburn-Murphy away from the Midlands after Bruce issued a hands-off warning.

In quotes published by the Daily Record, Bruce revealed conversations with the striker’s parents as he looks to keep the highly-rated youngster at Villa Park.

“We will do everything we can to keep him at Villa,” Bruce said. “I’ve met his parents for a conversation to tell them how much we rate him. We will do everything to tie him up.

“He has been in the academy since he was eight. So I hope he can fulfil all his potential and fulfil everything he wants to be because he is a very good player.”

The two-time England Under 18’s international’s Aston Villa contract is set to expire in the summer of 2017, and with no new contract on the horizon, his future continues to be in considerable doubt.

Hepburn-Murphy, who wears the number 29 shirt for the Midlands giants, has made just his third first-team appearance this season as he made a cameo appearance against Championship leaders Newcastle back in September.

Gers manager Mark Warburton brought in nine new players on a free transfer in the summer, including the likes of Jordan Rossiter, Josh Windass and Clint Hill.

Football Insider verdict:

With Aston Villa possessing an abundance of attacking stars such as Ross McCormack, Jonathan Kodjia, Gabby Agbonlahor and Rudy Gestede, Hepburn-Murphy is unlikely to be able to break his way into the first-team set-up at Villa Park any time soon. A move north to the Gers then, who are currently struggling to score goals, could suit both parties. Scouts watched Hepburn-Murphy find the back of the net on Monday from within the six-yard box, and it is that kind of goalscoring touch that Mark Warburton’s side are desperately missing. With Rangers scoring a paltry 17 goals in 13 league games, the former Brentford boss could be tempted into making a move for the Villa sensation.

In other Rangers transfer news, here are three strikers that Warburton could also turn to.