Aston Villa star James Bree has appeared to aim a sly dig at former manager Steve Bruce by stating 'it's been a couple of years since I have had a regular run [in the team]'.
The 21-year-old defender has started Villa's last six games in all competitions, playing at centre-back and his more natural right-back position.
Bree moved to Villa Park from Barnsley during the January transfer window of 2017, but the highly-rated youngster only managed 21 matches under Bruce.
In recent weeks, the Yorkshire-born player has been given his longest run in the side since moving to the Midlands as he expressed his gratitude towards that.
"It's just nice to be back playing again," Bree told AVTV. "It's been a couple of years since I have had a regular run in the team and it's just nice to be back playing - hopefully, I can stay in the team."
When Bree arrived at the club, Villa effectively had four senior right-backs on their books; Alan Hutton, Ahmed Elmohamady, Ritchie de Laet and Micah Richards.
Only Elmohamady and Hutton have played on a regular basis under Bruce and now Smith, with the latter also deployed in a left-back position.
At the start of the campaign, Bruce opted to play the likes of Hutton, centre-back Axel Tuanzebe and Elmohamady in the right-sided fullback position.
Bree will be hoping to extend his run in the starting XI when Smith's side host Hull City on Saturday afternoon as they aim to arrest their slump in form - they have won only one of their last eight matches in all competitions
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