Bulging mailbag convinces Bruce of fans' support

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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce is convinced the vast majority of Birmingham City supporters want him to remain as manager. After four largely successful years in charge, Bruce is battling to keep his injury-ravaged side in the Premiership.

Following the seven-goal FA Cup mauling by Liverpool last week - Birmingham's worst defeat in 48 years - Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Manchester United kept Bruce's team in the bottom three. It also had a negative impact on their goal difference - so not even victory in their game in hand over West Bromwich Albion may be enough to take them above the Baggies.

With the champions-elect Chelsea due at St Andrew's on Saturday, the situation could get worse and the Midlands team are now favourites to accompany Sunderland back into the Championship. Yet in stark contrast to David O'Leary, who is being pilloried by the fans of Bruce's city rivals Aston Villa, the Birmingham manager reckons that his club's supporters are still behind him.

It is an opinion not only borne out by the personal backing he received from the Blues' travelling support at Old Trafford but also from the correspondence he has received in a swelling mailbag. "The supporters have been fantastic," he said. "The vast amount of letters I have received are urging me to stay on, make sure I fight and try to win through it. I will give everything I possibly can."

The obvious problem for Bruce is the lack of key personnel through injury. Birmingham headed up the M6 without Matthew Upson, Chris Sutton, David Dunn and Muzzy Izzet among others - a problem which has blighted Bruce throughout the season.

It made the already difficult task of beating in-form United virtually impossible. Bruce may be able to take some solace from the goodwill heading in his direction - notably from his old manager Sir Alex Ferguson who has taken time out to talk with his former captain, just as he has done with the Baggies manager and fellow United great Bryan Robson.

As a United player in the early days of Ferguson's reign - when the Scot came under even more intense pressure than he himself is under now - Bruce knows the mental toughness required to cope. "Everyone associates Sir Alex with the glory days at Manchester United," he said. "I was with him when it wasn't like that, and we had to tough it out. I will always remember how he handled it.

"When you are up against it there is no one better than him. He is the first on the phone offering help; when you know how difficult this job can be the one thing you must do is take it."

At least Birmingham achieved their minimum requirement of salvaging some lost pride at Old Trafford. Had Emile Heskey not ballooned a golden chance over when his side were only two goals adrift, they might even have got something out of the game.Instead, they will plough on searching for results which would guide them to safety.

The forthcoming fixture list, including two games against Bolton and one against Blackburn does not offer much hope. "We are just looking for something to give us that little bit of confidence," said Bruce. "We have Chelsea next week and we need to make sure after that we are still in the race."

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