This article is part of Football FanCast’s Loan Watch series, which takes a closer look at those players who are aiming to galvanise their careers away from the spotlight of their parent club.
Although Aston Villa’s transfer business saw the club shell out over £130m on 12 new players, Dean Smith is likely to be keeping tabs on a number of loanees who could return to the newly-promoted side’s ranks in their bid to consolidate the club’s Premier League status.
The likes of Scott Hogan and Andre Green are spending their seasons away from Villa Park with Stoke City and Preston North End respectively, but one loanee who is plying their trade in League One is Rushian Hepburn-Murphy with Tranmere Rovers.
The Villa youth product, who has been capped with England from U16 to U20, has made 11 appearances for Rovers in the 2019/20 campaign, scoring three goals in what was an initially tough spell when he was red-carded on debut.
Micky Mellon’s side currently sit 18th but have scored the joint-most goals of any side in the bottom-13 within the division.
The forward’s most memorable display came against MK Dons, where he netted a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory this month, showing signs that he’s beginning to impress. He has also recorded an impressive record of 0.8 dribbles per game and 0.9 shots per match despite only starting three times.
The 21-year-old forward had spent time on loan at Cambridge United in League Two during the previous campaign, but the Villa hierarchy will be hoping that stepping up a division can provide a basis for development and increase the likelihood of Hepburn-Murphy returning to Vila Park and featuring in Smith’s first-team squad.
With the likes of Keinan Davis vying for a first-team place, the conclusion of the 2019/20 campaign could mark the perfect opportunity for Smith and his coaching staff to assess the forward’s credentials in comparison to other youthful prospects
A potential return to Villa Park could be a distinct possibility if Hepburn-Murphy can continue his promising rate of development at Prenton Park.