BARNSLEY manager Lee Johnson has urged teenager James Bree to grasp his opportunity at right-back following Reece Wabara’s switch to League One rivals Wigan Athletic.
Wabara rejected fresh terms at Oakwell to join the Latics, with Johnson admitting that the presence on deck of highly-rated Bree has softened the blow.
Johnson, who yesterday secured a much-needed addition to his midfield ranks with the loan capture of Josh Brownhill from Preston, said: “Bree has done well and I think that the time that Reece has had in the team has probably helped him.
“He needed to go through some basics, although he’s always had that quality in his attacking play, athleticism and pass selection.
“I think he is definitely ready now and has a really good chance to show that. It is a big chance for him to light his name up.”
On the exit of Wabara, Johnson added: “Reece has been a good lad to have around and I think we have improved him.
“It’s a bit frustrating as we just ended up developing him and he’s still only young at 22. But had we not had Bree, we might have gone a bit more gung-ho earlier to keep him.
“Bree has been progressing really well behind the scenes.”
Brownhill, 20, has arrived on an initial month’s youth loan and will stay at the club until February 13. He will be available for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern section second leg at Fleetwood at the start of next month.
He has featured six times for North End this term and started their FA Cup loss at Peterborough United last weekend.
On Brownhill, who made 28 appearances for Preston last season, Johnson added: “Josh is bright and energetic; he’ll fit into our group well.
“He’ll bring strength in competition to the squad and I’m sure he’ll prove a positive addition over the next 28 days.”
Johnson has confirmed that he is hoping to extend Kevin Long’s loan, which finishes shortly, but will not pursue his interest in several trialists who recently linked up with the club, including Norwegian international Thomas Drage.
Midfielder Josh Scowen could return to the fray in “seven to 14 days”, but the club are still unsure how long Marley Watkins could be out. The former Inverness Caledonian Thistle player will continue to be assessed, with Johnson saying his absence could be between two and six weeks.