James Bree hasn’t played a minute of competitive football since Dean Smith replaced Steve Bruce at Aston Villa, nor has he made the matchday squad on any occasion. The right-back’s last appearance was against Millwall on October 6, incidentally four days before Smith was appointed. He’s been bombed out of the first-team ever since and faces a tough task to get himself back into the reckoning.
After arranging an intra-squad friendly to allow the Villa outcasts the chance to impress, Smith did recently reveal he was looking at Bree among others to show why they deserve to feature, but the 21-year-old didn’t make the matchday squad against Bolton hours later his comments at the press conference. With Alan Hutton and Ahmed Elmohamady for competition, Bree finds himself low down the pecking order.
Since his 2017-move from Barnsley, the Englishman has endured a forgettable stint at Villa. Bree has made 22 appearances in all competitions in the last 22 months but only 15 of them have been starts. The right-back made only three league starts last season, spending the majority of the campaign on the bench, and has been on the periphery in 2018/19 too. Whether he can get himself in favour under Smith remains to be seen, but at least his new manager has given some hope to the outcasts.