Birmingham plan will let Bruce choose caretaker

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Birmingham City are ready to let Steve Bruce name a caretaker manager if his legal wrangle with Crystal Palace goes on for too long.

Bruce is still under contract as Palace manager and the club's owner, Simon Jordan, has taken out an injunction against him joining Birmingham before the end of his notice period. However, Birmingham are willing to wait for Bruce and have a plan to circumvent Jordan's tactics, which may leave them managerless for months.

Bruce, who could launch a counter legal action against Jordan, will be asked to appoint someone to run Birmingham until he is able to take over. The favourite for that role is Mark Bowen, one of Bruce's coaches at Palace before he left. Jordan has prevented his first-team coach, Terry Bullivant, from moving to Birmingham by giving him a new four-year contract

Bowen may be asked to take over at Birmingham, working with the existing staff, until Bruce can take charge. He would then stay as his assistant.

Jordan spoke with the Birmingham chief executive, Karren Brady, about a figure at the weekend, but called off the talks when Palace's demand for £1m was rejected. The Bruce saga could go on for months. He is on paid "gardener's leave" until the end of the season.

France have the highest number of nominees, including the Arsenal trio Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, among the 50 candidates for the 2001 European Footballer of the Year award. Another eight Frenchmen, including Fabien Barthez, are on the list for the golden ball, awarded annually by the French magazine France Football. The winner of the award, which Portugal's Luis Figo won last year, will be named the week before Christmas after a poll of journalists.

Apart from the 11 Frenchmen, whose names were leaked to journalists yesterday, France Football would only confirm that six Italians and five Englishmen were also on the list.

The Leicester City forward Ade Akinbiyi has decided to remain at Filbert Street. The £5m striker, who has scored only one Premiership goal this season, has rejected the chance to rejoin Wolves on loan. The Leicester manager, Dave Bassett, said: "He had a chance to go back to Wolves on loan but he did not think that was the right move."

Middlesbrough are leading the chase to sign Rochdale's teenage striker Kevin Townson. Boro have asked Rochdale to let them take Townson for training, but the Rochdale chairman, David Kilpatrick, has blocked the move. Middlesbrough are now likely to make a firm offer.