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By ESPN Staff
Jan 6, 2006

Bruce backs Sutton to win long-term Blues deal

Birmingham manager Steve Bruce has revealed he has 'a gentleman's agreement' with Chris Sutton to extend his short-term contract for a further 12 months if the striker can help keep the midlands club in the Premiership.

Sutton, who will play no part in Birmingham's FA Cup tie at Torquay on Saturday, has shaken hands with Bruce on such an arrangement after ending his five year spell at Celtic.

Sutton - whose capture has been hailed 'as important as signing Christophe Dugarry' by Blues chairman David Gold - will spend the weekend concentrating on building up his fitness level.

Bruce believes there will be 'no better signing in the transfer window' than Sutton who is set to make his debut in the Premiership clash at Charlton on January 14.

The Blues chief confirmed: 'I've shaken Chris' hand and we've a gentleman's agreement in that, if we like him and he likes us, and everything goes hunky-dory, then we will look to extend his contract next season.

'To do that, we've got to remain in the Premier League. That's one spur. But that's a spur for us all. We're determined to make sure we stay way we are.'

Although aware of Sutton's ability to also play in defence, Bruce has made it clear he wants the player to operate up front after beating off interest from Everton and Portsmouth to acquire his services.

Bruce said: 'It was great we could get someone with his experience and know-how as he's been a top centre-forward for the past 15 years. I'm delighted. He's just what we need and at the right time.

'His versatility is enormous but I want to play him as a striker. I want to play him as a threat. Umpteen times this season we've seen balls fizzed across that box and had no-one on the end of them.

'We've played well of late but we're hopeful Chris can give us a lift, a bit similar to where we were with Christophe Dugarry three years ago.'

Bruce is still in the market for another striker with pace in the mould of former Blues player Andy Johnson who is now with Crystal Palace.

He admitted that it was a mistake to have only three strikers in Emile Heskey, Walter Pandiani and Mikael Forssell to operate with in the first half of the season.

Bruce said: 'I'm still looking for that other type of striker. In hindsight, going into the season with three strikers wasn't right. I think we've learned that.

'Of course, Chris is a bit similar to Emile but you can't have enough options up front. I always say you are only as good as your strikers.

'The ones who need to be rotated in any team are your strikers because they need to stay sharp and lively. All the top teams do it.'

Bruce is aware of Saturday's cup tie at Plainmoor being a potential banana skin.

He said: 'I will pick the strongest possible team I can field to make sure we get in the hat for the next round. As for Chris, he trained on Friday, he will train on Saturday and we will look to get him ready for Charlton Athletic.'

Bruce admitted: 'Of course it's a banana skin game. We won't take them lightly, not at all. We will treat them with the respect that they deserve. There is always a shock in the cup and we don't want us to be on the end of it.

'The weather is going to play its part and the pitches are going to be as horrible as they can be. We've got to show the right attitude. If we go down there and act like big time Charlies, we will get our backsides kicked.'

Chairman Gold is delighted with the signing of Sutton and said: 'Once again Steve Bruce has pulled another rabbit out of the hat. Whilst there was only one Christophe Dugarry of his time, I've got to say this will be as important as the Dugarry signing.'