Bruce set to snub Palace and join Blues

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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce is to walk out on Crystal Palace and take over as the new manager of Birmingham City. Bruce has spent days agonising over his future, but has decided to leave Selhurst Park and become the 22nd manager this season to move from his club.

The former Manchester United captain was hoping to speak to the Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, following the First Division match against West Bromwich Albion last night in order to break the news to him before his long-anticipated return to St Andrew's.

Bruce has been Birmingham's first choice since Trevor Francis was sacked a fortnight ago. The manager with a burgeoning reputation for enjoying short stints with clubs has been weighing up the move ever since, but finally opted to depart yesterday.

It will prove to be a big blow to Jordan, who thought he had persuaded Bruce to stay by matching Birmingham's offer after they approached Palace on Monday. Jordan even put up the money to sign Steve Vickers from Middlesbrough, as Bruce had wanted, and was also bidding for the Blackpool striker Brett Ormerod.

Jordan will no doubt also feel aggrieved as he will feel he had done everything in his power to back Bruce and show that the club were ambitious for Premiership football. He could now become embroiled in a dispute with Birmingham and claim an illegal approach by the Blues.

Bruce is due to have talks with Birmingham immediately and discuss his back-room staff. He may take the Palace coach, Terry Bullivant, with him or even ask Aston Villa to release their assistant manager, John Deehan.

Birmingham will pay Bruce around £750,000 a year, but his decision to leave was not about his salary. Bruce has simply decided that Birmingham are a better long-term proposition after a couple of weeks of going through every aspect of the move.

Palace will now have to act swiftly to find a replacement for Bruce and try not to lose their momentum among the First Division front-runners. Blackpool's Steve McMahon is favoured by some Palace insiders and may be ready to step up after an impressive spell with the Seasiders.

The Oldham manager, Andy Ritchie, became the latest managerial sacking of the season yesterday. The Latics are now eighth in the Second Division, having lost four successive games before Saturday's 1-1 draw at Queen's Park Rangers. Tuesday's victory over Tranmere was apparently not enough to save Ritchie's job.

The 40-year-old was offered a place on the board as "technical director designate" and would have been responsible for all footballing matters, according to the club's statement, but he refused to accept the offer.

Oldham's chairman, Chris Moore, is ready to give the former Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder John Sheridan the chance to cut his teeth in management.

Carlton Palmer is interested in the Stockport County job as he attempts to break into management. The veteran former England international has had talks with the County chairman, Brendan Elwood, about the vacancy and could be a surprise appointment.