Dean Smith is hoping to see James Bree return to the first-team this week, with the Aston Villa defender expected back in training following injury. Bree has struggled for playing time at Villa this season but could be called upon by Smith if he can prove his fitness. Friday’s clash with West Bromwich Albion may have come too soon for him, however.
The right-back has made just five appearances in all competitions, the last of which came all the way back in early October. He’s played for the reserve side in November but can’t get a sniff in the senior squad. Alan Hutton and Ahmed Elmohamady were preferred under Bruce, and his successor Smith has favoured the experience pair at fullback too.
Smith did give hope to Bree being brought back in from the cold after an internal friendly was played, but it’s hard to see how he’ll get any minutes while the back-four remain fully fit. With Hutton often deputising at left-back if Neil Taylor’s unavailable and Elmohamady covering for the Scotland international at right-back, Bree will still only make the bench at best.
The January transfer window could be interesting for the 21-year-old. He’d surely jump at the chance of a loan move away for the second-half of the season, but Villa may not sanction his temporary exit as he can operate as a makeshift centre-back – a position the Villans have little depth in.
Time will tell what happens to Bree in the coming weeks.