Football: Fry moves closer to Birmingham job

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BARRY FRY confidently predicted last night that not only would he be the new manager of Birmingham City - a job he has yet to be offered - but that the Blues would become a force again in football, writes Clive White.

First, however, he has to clear the way for his departure from Southend and three hours of talks yesterday with Vic Jobson's board 'resolved absolutely nothing', according to Fry. It is understood that the club are reluctant to allow Ed Stein, his assistant, and David Howell, his coach, to accompany him to St Andrews.

The three hours of talks which Fry had earlier with Karren Brady, Birmingham's managing director, were clearly much more fruitful. 'I'm satisfied in my own mind that they (Brady and David Sullivan, the owner) are as committed as I would be to making this club a success,' he said.

'The potential at City is tremendous,' he said. 'There's no doubt in my mind that this is a Premiership club. When this giant is awakened it will grow so big it will be unbelievable.'

Fry estimated his chances of succeeding Terry Cooper as 'absolutely 100 per cent'. Sullivan has promised to make Fry the highest paid manager in the First Division with a pounds 100,000-a-year contract plus bonuses.

Paul Gascoigne's expected comeback for Lazio against Juventus on Sunday may be put off. Dino Zoff, the coach, is undecided whether to play the Englishman, just recovered from an ankle injury, instead of the German, Thomas Doll. 'We'll draw our conclusions only at the weekend,' he said.

Paul Ince, of Manchester United, has signed a six-year deal worth pounds 2m, leaving Peter Schmeichel, the goalkeeper, as the only leading Old Trafford player still to tie himself to the club long-term.

'But what people must understand is that the agreement under discussion will probably be my last because it takes me up to the age of 35. So it is very important for me.'

John Featherstone, 60, has taken over as Sunderland chairman in succession to Bob Murray, who resigned after sacking Terry Butcher as manager.