There’s an awful sense of inevitability about the entire Hepburn-Murphy contract saga.
It’s still Pantomime season, just about, and this has all of the key ingredients.
What with the “will he, won’t he” sign a contract discussion now increasingly a debate carried out in public, it’s no surprise, but a real concern to see strong transfer links forming.
Whilst Rangers have been widely reported to have been monitoring RHM’s situation for a while, the lack of contract progress only encourages such interest to firm up. Players of RHM’s promise have suiters and situations like this aren’t healthy.
Mark Warburton (linked to the Villa hotseat previously) has now been given the green light to sign Hepburn-Murphy on a pre-contract agreement.
This could well force someone’s hand and the pressure swings suddenly towards Villa.
There is genuine risk from Bruce taking a hard-line stance against RHM as he holds out for the youngster to put pen to paper.
Whilst the principle of not playing Murphy until he’s committed make sense on the one hand, it does little in terms of endearing yourself to the other side. Particularly if you want something from them and ultimately they hold the Ace.
Whilst few would disagree that the lack of loyalty in football is disheartening, the reality is that there are clubs out there who will take advantage of situations like this. Ultimately, that’s their look-out and it’s a situation Villa have also historically benefitted from.
- What is RHM worth to us?
- Not necessarily in terms of money in the here and now; but what can he bring to our squad?
- Is he part of the re-build and our aspirations for promotion?
- Can his talent be harnessed now or in the near future?
- Would simply increasing his contract terms satisfy him, or is it first team opportunities he actually craves?
- How has he failed to break into a Villa side where striking options have left much to be desired?
- Is he the finished article – and realistically – does he stand to be?
RHM was also covered in a recent podcast at some length.
Ultimately the decision to cough up will rest with the club, their desire to meet his contract demands and temper this against other transfer targets.
It’s certainly a game of chess.
Another eyebrow raiser is the notion of a mere 200k fee being paid by any club wishing to sign RHM.
This “fee” would actually be compensation:
“Where a professional player, under the age of 24, has been offered a new contract by his club (subject to certain requirements that the offer must meet set out in Rule 64.3 of the Football League Rules) and he rejects that offer in order to take up the opportunity to sign for another club, compensation will be payable.”
For comparison, the terms of Villa’s compensation to Norwich City for Jed Steer makes relevant reading.
In short it illustrates that an up front payment can be supplemented with significant add-ons if agreed by a tribunal:
- “Jed had spent all of his youth career at Norwich City and turned professional aged 17. He made his first team debut for Norwich City in the FA Cup, away to WBA, in what would be his only first team appearance for the Canaries. He enjoyed successful loan periods at Cambridge and Yeovil Town, and played for England U16, U17 and U19. Jed was regarded by Norwich City as one of the best young goalkeepers in the country. He allowed his contract to expire and signed for Premier League club Aston Villa, immediately becoming their no.2 keeper.
- The PFCC ordered that Aston Villa pay Norwich City an initial compensation fee of £450,000.
- Additionally, if Jed represents England Under 21 and the full senior side, Norwich City will be paid a further £225,000.
- Appearances for Aston Villa trigger further payments, which in total could amount to a maximum sum of £500,000.
- Aston Villa will also need to pay Norwich 20% of any profit they make from selling the player to another club at any point in the future.”
RHM 2015-17 STATS
Overall it’s perhaps easy to become resigned to losing a player just because they dig their heels in. Equally isn’t it overly simplistic to say that a player just wants to get rich quick as well?
RHM is likely already on a good deal and the fact that he’s considering the Scottish leagues as a next career step says a great a lot about a desire perhaps just to play football outside of the Under-23’s.
Personally, I would like to see Hepburn-Murphy stay, then develop (this is key) and hopefully blossom into a key part of the Villa strike-force.
It’s a big leap, certainly aspirationally and should weigh heavily on those advising him. Is Villa club on the up? Is Rangers (and similar) the next logical step?
There is great career opportunity if he becomes the player his press suggests, but patience is perhaps the one element lacking.
Do I believe that his potential can be best nurtured at Villa Park? Not necessarily on previous experience. However, I do think that moving north of the border would represent a backwards step in terms of testing himself week in, week out.
Equally, yes, he might go there and shine. In fact, if he’s *that* good, he should look like Messi. But let’s not forget that the SPL is a division where Scott Sinclair looks a world-beater.
Ultimately, it’s a big decision for him and Aston Villa.