Football: Bruce facing difficult test from past master

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THE SHEFFIELD United manager, Steve Bruce, comes face to face with his former boss, Trevor Francis, today, refusing to be influenced by his days at Birmingham.

Bruce is determined that he will stamp his own managerial mark on United, where he only took up the reins less than two months ago after finally receiving the offer he had been dreaming of.

The decision to leave St Andrew's this summer to take over the Blades was not one of the hardest he has had to make, but it was still the end of another chapter to his long and illustrious career.

Now, just two weeks into the new season, the fixtures computer has thrown Bruce into the spotlight against a Birmingham side which he once captained and with whom he spent two seasons after his heady days playing for Manchester United.

While many managers admit to having learnt from previous bosses along the road to taking charge themselves, Bruce has quickly discovered that it often counts for nothing and that you have to make your own decisions.

"You pick up little things from every individual. But ultimately it's your way. It's how you do it and that's what you live and die by", Bruce admitted. "I've only been in this game six weeks and I already know that that's how this business is.

"So how am I different? It's in different situations you face. Some people would pick other players for instance. Everybody will have an opinion on who they think should be in the team. Now, ultimately, I know it's my decision and I will pick the team accordingly.

"I also bring my own qualities into management. In particular I've always wanted to achieve and wanted to win, and hopefully I'll drag everybody along there with me. I want to go and play in the Premiership. I want to be involved again in the big games and playing in the nice stadiums.

"If I didn't think Sheffield United were prepared to do that then I'd be wasting my time here."

Birmingham, however, are one of the teams barring his way to achieving that ambition, as Bruce firmly believes that Francis' side have got what it takes to reach the top flight this season: "I feel Birmingham are one of the main contenders for promotion," he said.