Bruce asks Villa fans to show respect for Yorke

Ever the optimist, the Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce would like Aston Villa fans to show Dwight Yorke "the respect he deserves" in tomorrow's Midlands derby.

Ever the optimist, the Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce would like Aston Villa fans to show Dwight Yorke "the respect he deserves" in tomorrow's Midlands derby.

Yorke was once the hero of the Holte End during his decade at Villa after being spotted as a 17-year-old on tour in Trinidad. But he has received a torrent of abuse every time he has returned since his move to Manchester United in December 1998, and that will be intensified given the blue shirt he will be wearing tomorrow.

However, Bruce is confident Yorke will take it in his stride, providing there is no repeat of the racist abuse he received on his return to his previous club, Blackburn, last month.

"I hope Dwight is shown the respect he deserves because he did well for the Villa, remarkably well," Bruce said. "He is going to get a bit of stick, that's normal, but as long as it is not racial, then he's come to expect it. Dwight is strong enough to cope with it. It maybe will get worse because he is now playing in a Birmingham shirt."

Bruce does not want to go down the road of Yorke being afforded extra protection if, as expected, he is one of the Birmingham substitutes, although the club will seek police advice on the matter.

"I left Villa to go to a big club," Yorke said. "I didn't leave them to go straight to Birmingham. I went to Manchester United and those opportunities do not come along very often. It disappoints me how the Villa fans react towards me because when I was there I gave everything I possibly could and I left the club in a good state."

If there is likely to be an edge to the fans' reactions, on the pitch things could turn out spicy, too. Villa have failed to beat the Blues in four attempts since they reached the top flight two seasons ago, and their captain Olof Mellberg says he is no great admirer of Bruce's side.

"I don't particularly like Birmingham City after the four games we have played against them in the Premiership," the Swedish defender said. "I cannot say the atmosphere among the players on both sides has been brilliant, either."

He also sought to stoke up the mood before the game, saying, "I am surprised with Birmingham's form. I thought they would be higher up the League because they signed, in my opinion, some great players after spending a lot of money."

Bruce will probably pin up those words on the dressing-room wall tomorrow.

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