Bruce stands firm as West Ham lift Upson bid to £6m

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The Independent Football

Birmingham City have rejected an improved offer of £6m from West Ham United for the defender Matthew Upson. The Blues manager, Steve Bruce, is determined to keep hold of the 27-year-old centre-half until at least the end of the season. Birmingham turned down a £4m offer from the Hammers last week.

Bruce has spoken of his fears about "negative vibes" being sent through the promotion-chasing club if Upson was sold. The Birmingham manager said it would take a "mega bucks" offer for him to allow Upson to leave before the summer.

Bruce does not believe the value of Upson, who has 18 months remaining on his contract, will fall substantially if he stays at St Andrews until May.

The Birmingham manager is under no pressure to bring in revenue after selling Emile Heskey to Wigan and Jermaine Pennant to Liverpool last summer for nearly £13m, though he recently signed the striker Rowan Vine from Luton Town for £3m. The midfielder David Dunn has joined Blackburn for an undisclosed fee.

Bruce has confirmed his interest in the Sheffield Wednesday defender Madjid Bougherra, although no formal bid has been made for the Algeria player. Bruce said: "I spoke to their manager a week or so ago about a couple of their players and Bougherra was mentioned, but that's as far as it has gone."

Gareth Southgate, the Middlesbrough manager, is on the verge of making significant changes to his squad as he prepares to sell the club's last two record signings. The defender Ugo Ehiogu, an £8m acquisition from Aston Villa, was training with Rangers yesterday as the last details of his move to Glasgow were negotiated. The Italian striker Massimo Maccarone's agent said that he expected the £8.15m player to join the Serie A side Siena, where he spent a successful loan spell in 2004-05, early next week.

l Ron Atkinson has been appointed director of football at Kettering. The former Manchester United and Aston Villa manager led Kettering, now in Nationwide Conference North, to two Southern League titles in the 1970s.