Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe has already showcased his willingness to put his trust in the club’s academy talent during his tenure at St James’ Park so far, with the 45-year-old seemingly hoping to target on-field success both in the short-term and in the years to come.
Highly-rated playmaker Elliot Anderson – who spent last season on loan at Bristol Rovers – has already racked up 13 appearances in all competitions for the Magpies this term after being given the faith of his manager, while Howe was also keen to take a closer look at his young stars during the recent World Cup break.
One such asset who was thrust into the fray during those mid-season friendlies was 18-year-old starlet Alex Murphy, with the promising Irishman having featured off the bench during the 5-0 win over Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal.
While that was a brief cameo appearance for the teenager, that early involvement in the first-team has illustrated the great strides that he has already made on Tyneside since arriving from Galway United last summer.
The commanding defender – who has typically featured at left-back or centre-back to date – has already had a taste of senior action at his former club, scoring twice and laying on four assists in 32 games across all fronts.
Lauded as “elegant” by former Galway academy coach Martin Devlin, the youngster’s ‘calmness on the ball‘ – as described by The Chronicle’s Luke Duden – has seemingly caught the eye of Howe and co, with a prominent role in the first-team potentially on the horizon.
Should Murphy be promoted to the senior ranks over the coming weeks and months, it could well allow Newcastle the chance to part ways with peripheral figure Matt Targett on the left-hand side of defence, with the Englishman having been something of a spare part so far this season.
The former Aston Villa man was snapped up by the Magpies on a £15m deal last summer, having previously spent the second half of last season on loan at St James’ Park, although he has since gone on to start just six games in all competitions.
The 27-year-old – who has been blighted by injury of late – simply “hasn’t set the world alight” according to pundit Noel Whelan, with the club seemingly in need of an “upgrade” (as per Whelan) if they are to truly kick on moving forward.
Those struggles have come amid reports that Newcastle are looking for a new left-back recruit – with Croatian ace Borna Sosa having been linked in recent months – although PIF could well save themselves millions by turning to young Murphy instead of scouring the market.
With the teenage gem also perhaps a more suited successor to usual starter Dan Burn due to his ability to feature at full-back but also at the heart of defence, it could well make sense for him to secure a promotion to the first-team, thus pushing Targett further down the pecking order.