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‘Next John Stones’ Bree signs until 2017

By Doug O'Kane, Sports Editor Friday 28th February 2014
James Bree with aademy manager Ronnie Branson and first team manager Danny Wilson.

While most 16-year-olds in Barnsley have been relaxing during half-term this week, James Bree has been signing a professional deal at Oakwell until 2017.


Bree turned down Manchester United in the summer and is tipped as 'the next John Stones' by staff at the Oakwell academy, where he has played for four years.


Because players cannot sign professional deals until they are 17, the midfielder – who can also play in defence – has been given a scholarship which will turn into a professional contract on his birthday which is December 11.


The Wakefield lad is the latest product of the academy which produced Everton and England under 21 centre-back Stones as well as several others who have played first team football for the Reds.


Bree has been part of the successful Barnsley under 18s side this season despite being officially an under 16. He missed their win at Huddersfield on Saturday due to a skiing trip with Horbury School, where he is a year 11 pupil.


He told the Chronicle: "It's a dream come true to sign a professional deal but I know the hard work starts now.


"I have seen how well John Stones has done and hopefully I can do the same. I knew that I had made the right decision to stay here and not join Man U at the time and I know it even more now.

I have spoken to a few of the first year pros like Paul Digby and I have spoken to Bobby Hassell quite a lot."


Chief executive Ben Mansford said: "We wanted James to know how highly we thought of him. It is testament to the academy and the club that James signed for us despite interest from Premier League clubs.


"There is a lot of good work going on at the academy and a lot of investment into it by the owner Patrick Cryne so it is important that we protect our assets by identifying the best players early and signing them on long-term deals."