Sheffield United: Bree departs as James checks-in

James Bree has left Oakwell
James Bree has left Oakwell
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James Bree has completed his move to Aston Villa.

The promising defender agreed a four-and-a-half year deal at Villa Park, for a fee believed to be around £3million.

Bree was another whose contract at Oakwell expired in the summer, and much like Sam Winnall, he decided to leave the club.

The proposition of a substantial boost in wages proved to be too much for the youngster as he made his decision to leave his boyhood club.

The right-back, who made his league debut at the tender age of 16, is another defender to come through the ranks at Oakwell and get a big-money move away, following the likes of John Stones and Mason Holgate.

Stones, now under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, and Holgate both moved to Everton in recent years as the bright lights of the Premier League lured them away from Yorkshire.

“I’m joining a massive club and hopefully I can bring something to their team,” said Bree, who made 61 appearances for the Reds. “I’ve been at Barnsley since I was young and it’s helped me develop. I’ll always be grateful to the club.”

Paul Heckingbottom, who is the bookies’ favourite for the Nottingham Forest job, will be looking around his dressing room with the key components of his play-off, and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, winning side nowhere to be seen. But he bolstered the options at his disposal by signing Matt James on loan from Leicester City yesterday.

Winnall departed for Sheffield Wednesday, Bree has now gone to Villa, Alfie Mawson moved in the summer to Swansea. And that might not be it. Villa boss Steve Bruce has also nearly snatched talisman Conor Hourihane away, too.

The suspected fee for the Irishman is also understood to be around £3million, but the deal is taking longer than expected to get over the line. To make matters worse for Heckingbottom, Marley Watkins - who was subject to a £1million bid from Ipswich Town on deadline day in August - has reportedly handed in a transfer request.

It looks as if the money coming into the club will not be spent until the summer, as Heckingbottom looks to the loan market to get some bodies in. The club are looking into bringing in Liverpool right-back Connor Randall as a short-term replacement for Bree.