By Emma Sanders

Steve Bruce has claimed that Gabby Agbonlahor is the best striker in the Championship when he is fully fit.

The Villa veteran was out-of-favour with the club prior to Bruce’s appointment but the striker has since undergone an intense fitness regime in order to fight for his place.

The 30 year-old made his return to the side as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with rivals Birmingham City before appearing in the 2-1 victory over Blackburn at the weekend.

Agbonlahor has not scored for Villa this season but the new manager is convinced that the striker is better than the Championship’s leading scorers Dwight Gayle (11 league goals), Tammy Abraham, Glenn Murray (nine), and Chris Wood, Danny Ward and Scott Hogan (eight).

“In the moments he’s played, he’s showed exactly what he wants to do. The rest is up to him. There’s no better centre-forward in this league if he’s fit,” Bruce told the club’s official Facebook page.

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“He’s ahead of schedule. I didn’t think he’d respond the way he has done. Fair play to him. He’s been battered here for a while, for whatever reason. Maybe he’s say he deserved it at times. But make no mistake he wants to be a player again here.”

Agonlahor has been at Aston Villa for over 12 years and has made 373 total appearances, scoring 84 goals for the club and is regarded as one of the best players in recent history.

However, prior to his substitute appearance against Birmingham, Agbonlahor had not featured for Villa for almost seven months, with his last appearance coming during their 1-0 defeat against Swansea in March 2016.

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