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Sense of urgency needed at Stoke

Stoke City
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By ESPN Staff

'I'll never quit,' insists defiant Blues boss Bruce

Steve Bruce has insisted he will not quit Birmingham even if they are relegated from the Premiership as he prepares for the return of Robbie Savage in tomorrow's crucial match with Blackburn.

Blues were given a lifeline by Portsmouth's 2-1 defeat at Charlton on Easter Monday and they can move out of the bottom three by defeating Mark Hughes' side.

But even if City return to the Championship, Bruce will not walk away from St Andrews despite having gone through what he describes as 'the toughest season I've known as a manager' as a result of the club's constant stream of injuries.

Central defender Matthew Upson has joined the list of long-term injuries and will be sidelined for a minimum of six months after rupturing his Achilles in the warm-up before Sunday's derby with Aston Villa.

Bruce said: 'All my career I have lived with pressure. I don't enjoy it but usually I thrive on it. I'm thriving on it now in trying to make sure we pull through this current situation.

'This has been the hardest season for me to deal with in terms of the problems we've had. We haven't been able to get our big players on the pitch. I remember going to Chelsea with kids having to come on as substitutes.

'Now after walking into a press conference last Friday and announcing we have finally got a fully-fit squad to pick from, we lose Jiri Jarosik, David Dunn and Matthew Upson in the next 48 hours.

'That's the way it has been all season but I am very resilient and I've never thought of quitting - and I will not whatever happens.

'I've been at Birmingham two years as a player and nearly five as a manager, my longest spell at a club after Manchester United, and I've never thought of quitting.

'I'd never walk out. I'm never ever going to quit. I don't want to talk about relegation but if it happens, I would hope the board would see fit that I'd be the one to bring us back up.

'We have a chance to stay up. Portsmouth have had a tremendous run and Harry Redknapp appears to have turned things around during the past month.

'But three weeks ago we were written off and have improved our results and even against Villa the players gave everything. I am sure there are going to be some more twists and turns in the next two or three weeks before everything is settled.'

Savage will be back at St Andrews for the first time since his acrimonious transfer to Ewood Park during the January 2005 transfer window and he can expect a hostile reception from Blues fans after previously being their hero.

But Bruce insisted: 'Robbie played a really big part for over two years in helping Birmingham to become established in the Premiership and I'll always be grateful to him for that. He was a heartbeat of the team during that time.

'It was disappointing the way it ended and perhaps both of us could have handled it differently but that's all gone now. What we need to do is concentrate on getting the three points which will take us out of the bottom three.'

Former Rovers player Martin Taylor is set to continue to deputise at the heart of the Blues defence for Upson who will undergo surgery tomorrow.

Bruce has to decide whether to persevere with Emile Heskey in the left-sided midfield role he adopted after Dunn's calf injury at Villa Park with Mikael Forssell and Chris Sutton linking up in attack.

Bruce believes eight-goal leading scorer Jarosik has a 50-50 chance of overcoming his hamstring setback suffered in training on Saturday.