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Football: Bruce keen to get cracking and turn up the heat; Bradford City v Birmingham City.

Byline: Brian Halford

The construction of any decent omelette, experts agree, requires the breaking of a few eggs. The first wave of casualties of Steve Bruce's occupation of the Birmingham City kitchen arrived this week and it will be a rapidly evolving Blues team which takes the field at Bradford City tomorrow night.

Marcelo, Martin O'Connor and, almost certainly, David Holdsworth and Paul Furlong have played their final games for Birmingham and will today be treading the turf at Bescot and Bramall Lane. Into the big blue pan, meanwhile have landed two new ingredients.

When the Bruce omelette - a little flat following 42 days without a win, although still in its early stages of preparation, of course - fetches up in west Yorkshire tomorrow, there are likely to be debuts for two players.

Stern John, work permit safely through, is available to challenge for a place up front while Paul Devlin will surely start on the right wing to resume the creativity mission he last undertook for Blues against Manchester City at St Andrew's on December 13, 1997 (O'Connor, ironically, scored the winner that day).

The player-traffic, inevitable under new management, is gathering pace. Bruce spent two days in France this week to follow up a couple of leads and the club's scouting operations are in overdrive. Several bids have been lodged. To further enhance the omelette, fingers are in copious pies but with all this squad-juggling and medium-term planning in mind, how difficult is it to focus on the immediate term? On winning the next match, which Blues have failed to do on the last five occasions.

'Very difficult,' said Bruce. 'But opportunities to do deals come along and if they are the right deals, they have to be seized.

'The chance arose to bring in Stern John, which is an excellent bit of business,then Paul Devlin. I've never seen any player as excited about a move as Paul because, of course, he is a fan. A real Blue Nose.

'To say we off-loaded the players that joined Walsall this week is unfair. I have the highest regard for them. Martin O'Connor and Marcelo were going to be out of contract in the summer and had asked me about their futures. I told them I was going to assess things over the next two months and they weren't happy with that, understandably so because they have young families and need security. Now, they have a chance to earn some security at Walsall.

'Martin has been a fantastic servant to Blues and Marcelo is a dream professional. I wish them all the best, but these decisions can't be based on sentiment. We have a few bob in the kitty as a result of the deal and we'll have a few more if Walsall stay up.' Anyway, back to that omelette. How quickly all the ingredients are assembled remains to be seen, but one or two of the choicer ones are available to Bruce again at Bradford. Steve Vickers is fit again, so is Stan Lazaridis, raising the adventurous possibility of Blues fielding two wingers at the Bradford and Bingley Stadium. Certainly Lazaridis, so often an isolated creative spark for Blues, will welcome Devlin's arrival to give opposing defences cause for concern on both flanks.

With two home games, against Barnsley and Watford, following tomorrow's tussle, Blues season is at a crossroads. In the true tradition of the omelette industry, cooking with gas. The manager has no illusions about that.

'We need to get on a run of form,' he said. 'We haven't kicked a ball this week, but gone down two places.

'There is still everything to play for with 15 games left, but we do need to kick-start ourselves. Bradford won't be easy, but it helps that we are getting some players back like Stan Lazaridis and Steve Vickers. It's still all to play for.'

Meanwhile, yet another Saturday game disappeared from Blues' schedule last night when the home game with Portsmouth was switched from Saturday April 6 to Sunday April 7 (ko 2.15pm) for TV coverage.

CAPTION(S):

Wing support for Stan Lazaridis at Bradford
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 9, 2002
Words:688
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