Newcastle close in on Milner as Bruce set to stay at City

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The Independent Football

Events in Leeds and Birmingham yesterday conspired to strengthen Sir Bobby Robson's hold on the levers of power at St James' Park.

Events in Leeds and Birmingham yesterday conspired to strengthen Sir Bobby Robson's hold on the levers of power at St James' Park.

The Newcastle manager was given the go-ahead yesterday to sign Leeds United's enormously talented teenager James Milner, while at St Andrew's, Steve Bruce, a man widely tipped to succeed him, is likely to sign a new five-year contract with Birmingham City.

At 18, Milner is one of the few remaining jewels left for Leeds to sell and a fee of about £3.5m would secure his transfer to Tyneside. He already rejected one offer from Tottenham. A young Newcastle side, in which he would play alongside Jermaine Jenas and Kieron Dyer, was always seen as a likely destination.

Robson has been adept at picking off the wreckage from Leeds' financial implosion, having taken Jonathan Woodgate and, with far less success, Lee Bowyer and Michael Bridges to Newcastle.

The Leeds director Peter Lorimer expressed his frustration with Milner, who became the Premiership's youngest goalscorer on Boxing Day 2002. "We have gone as far as we can in terms of what we can offer James," he said. "We've almost doubled his salary and in the present situation it would be impossible to offer him more. We are trying to rescue the club, not make the situation worse."

Milner's agent yesterday denied the claim that Leeds made him an increased offer, stating that no talks took place.

Robson, who had hoped to sign the Benfica right-back Miguel, may now turn his attention again to Tottenham's Stephen Carr as Miguel's value has increased enormously since his displays for Portugal in Euro 2004. Robson had offered Hugo Viana in part-exchange, but may now find himself priced out of the market. Carr would be expected to cost him about £3.5m.

Nevertheless, Robson is still likely to be in charge for a sixth season when Newcastle's Premiership campaign opens at Middlesbrough in August. The board at St James' Park has never wholly disguised its desire to bring Bruce back to his native land (he was born in Northumberland) but his decision to commit himself to Birmingham until 2009 would force Newcastle to offer a prohibitive sum in compensation.

Having previously managed five clubs in three years, Bruce's longevity at St Andrew's has surprised many. But he has been backed with plenty of hard cash and is set to be rewarded for producing sustained success on the back of it.

This summer has seen him add Emile Heskey, Muzzy Izzet and Julian Gray to a squad he steered to 10th in the Premiership, a position Birmingham had not bettered since 1959.

Birmingham's managing director, Karren Brady, said yesterday: "It secures the future and overcomes any speculation linking him to other clubs. He has many more years ahead of him at Birmingham and all our plans and player choices are based around Steve staying."

Meanwhile, Valencia are to sue their former manager Rafael Benitez for breach of contract after his move from the Mestalla to Anfield. Benitez had a year left on his contract when he quit Valencia for Liverpool. Benitez has indicated he will counter-sue for unpaid bonuses and salary and has lodged a complaint with the Spanish Football Association.

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