Gabby Agbonlahor: Aston Villa's Steve Bruce 'would be foolish to discard' striker
Gabby Agbonlahor could still have a key role at Aston Villa if he maintains his current rate of progress, says manager Steve Bruce.
The 30-year-old striker fell out of favour at the club under the previous management, following a series of well-publicised off-field misdemeanours.
Agbonlahor came off the bench in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Birmingham - his first appearance for Villa since March.
"He's played in the big league. I'd be foolish to discard him," said Bruce.
"If we can get him right, he can be as good as any striker in this league," added the Villa boss, who said after his appointment earlier in October that the door was not shut on any player at the Championship club.
Bruce had already made it clear that another of his supposed problem players, Jack Grealish, still had a future at Villa Park.
Grealish was selected for his Bruce's first game in charge against Wolves on 15 October, in which he picked up a three-game suspension that ruled him out of the trip to St Andrew's.
But Bruce sprang an even bigger surprise by bringing Agbonlahor back into the Villa squad for the first time in seven months for Sunday's Second City derby.
'First shoots of recovery'
Having seen his side pegged back by David Davis' 71st-minute equaliser after Villa midfielder Gary Gardner's first goal for the club, a lively Agbonlahor showed a lot of clever touches in a 20-minute cameo appearance.
"You only had to watch him to see what he's capable of," said ex-Birmingham and Hull boss Bruce. "He's been in a dark, horrible place and, for what he's done in the past, he's paid a high price.
"We've got him on a programme that he's only two weeks into, but he's working very hard. He's spent more hours on the training ground than I have over the last two weeks.
"We're not getting carried away but these are the first little shoots of recovery. The rest is up to him."
Bruce will have winger Grealish available again for Villa's next game at home to Blackburn Rovers on 5 November, but he looks like being without midfielders Albert Adomah and Leandro Bacuna.
Adomah limped off with a dead leg while Bacuna missed the Birmingham game, for which he was replaced by Ashley Westwood, and may be out for up to three weeks with a "tweaked groin" suffered in training.