Hughes has no time for empathy

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A simmering sense of injustice will prevent Mark Hughes dwelling on the plight of his former Manchester United team-mate and captain Steve Bruce at St Andrew's tonight, although it is doubtful the Blackburn Rovers manager would have sympathy for Birmingham City's relegation struggle even if consumed by the joys of spring.

It may come as a surprise to those who witnessed United's first championship triumphs under Sir Alex Ferguson but Hughes does not share with Bruce, or the equally imperilled Bryan Robson, a bond that was once so evident on the pitch.

With the obstinacy that has helped to confound Ferguson's prediction that the more obvious leadership qualities of Bruce and Robson would prosper in management, rather than the studious Welshman, Hughes is too preoccupied with guiding Rovers into Europe to concern himself with the troubles of Birmingham or West Bromwich.

"I don't particularly keep in touch with him [Bruce]," the Blackburn manager said. "He was a team-mate - but then so was Bryan Robson. I had a lot of team-mates. We are not on the phone every other week, though, because that is not the kind of relationship we have. I look at this as a good time to be playing Birmingham. Players can sometimes be affected when you are down at the wrong end of the table and that anxiety can be transferred between the players and the crowd."

Bruce is resigned to Matthew Upson being out for at least six months after it was confirmed that the central defender suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the warm-up before Sunday's derby against Aston Villa.

"It is terrible news, a real blow for us," Bruce said. "We had eased Matthew back carefully after his other injuries and had hoped he would be available for the finale to the season."