By Will Butcher
Steve Bruce has heaped praise on the impact made by Aston Villa teenager James Bree following his January move from Barnsley.
Bree, 19, shone in Villa’s 2-0 win over Championship play-off contenders Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, which saw Ivory Coast international Jonathan Kodjia score a superb brace.
Speaking to Villa’s official Twitter account, manager Bruce believes the right-back is playing at a standard beyond his years with the Midlands giants following his move south.
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) March 13, 2017
Bree was crucial in helping Villa score their opener, as he came short to provide support to former Barnsley teammate Conor Hourihane from a corner.
Villa’s number 16 completed a quick one-two with Hourihane, before the left-footed midfielder curled a superb cross into the Barnsley penalty area for striker Kodjia to head home.
Making just his fourth appearance in claret and blue after struggling with injury early in his Villa stay, Bree starred on the right flank and kept Wednesday winger Adam Reach quiet.
Promotion expert Bruce has been delighted with Bree’s impact, with the youngster’s place in the side coinciding with Villa’s return to form after a winless run of 10 games.
Now, Bree is expected to start over Scotland international Alan Hutton on Saturday, as Bruce’s side travel to Lancashire to face Championship strugglers Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
Three points and a fifth win in six games for Villa could see them leapfrog Bree and Hourihane’s old side Barnsley into 11th place, if the Tykes lose to Norwich.
In other Aston Villa news, Gary Gardner has compared Kodjia to one of Villa’s club icons.