By Amir Mir

Steve Bruce has claimed Gabby Agbonlahor can be “as good as any striker in the league” after he made a cameo appearance for Aston Villa against Birmingham City on Sunday afternoon.

The 30-year-old came off the substitutes bench in the last ten minutes as Villa drew 1-1 with their second City rivals at St Andrews.

Striker Agbonlahor had not featured for the Midlands giants this season, after previous manager Roberto Di Matteo had opted to leave the troubled start out of his first-team plans.

But, recently-appointed boss Bruce has offered him a clean slate and gave his verdict on the club’s longest player, following his return to first-team action.

“He’s played in the big league. I’d be foolish to discard him,” Bruce told BBC Sport. “If we can get him right, he can be as good as any striker in this league.”

At this moment in time, Agbonlahor is in his second week of a six-week fitness programme, following his six-month absence from the team.

The three-time England international gave up the club captaincy last season, as a result of his fitness and a number of off-field issues, which saw him suspended by the club on a number of occasions.

Agbonlahor scored only one-goal last season, but was heavily criticised for his performances and fitness, as the boyhood Villa fan saw his club relegated into the second-tier.

In other Aston Villa team news, this attacking ace will miss Saturday’s clash against Blackburn Rovers.