Kevin Phillips is over the moon Ross Barkley returned to the Aston Villa team last night.

The former Claret and Blue, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, said it is a “big, big boost” for Dean Smith’s side to have the 27-year-old back from injury ahead of a busy schedule.

Barkley missed the entirety of the festive period with a hamstring problem sustained in 2-1 loss against Brighton at the back end of November.

The midfielder, on loan from Chelsea, made his return to the starting eleven last night in place of Anwar El Ghazi as Villa lost 2-0 at Manchester City.

In Barkley’s absence, El Ghazi scored five goals in seven Premier League games.

However, Phillips is adamant Smith was right to reinstate Barkley to the starting eleven.

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“It did not surprise me,” he told Football Insider.

“Ross Barkley would have had a good week of training so for me it was a no brainer bringing him back in.

“It is tough for El Ghazi because he has been doing well but Barkley has been one of their main players. It was a big decision for Dean to make but it is a good decision to have.

“They have got a lot of games coming up so they are going to need every player over that period. Every player involved at first team level will get some game time.

“It was a big, big boost to have Barkley back last night.”  

In other news, an Aston Villa starlet has been tipped to agree a new deal as a number of big clubs circle.