Aston Villa v Birmingham City: Steve Bruce 'desperate' to beat Blues in Sunday's derby

Steve Bruce
Steve Bruce's final game as Birmingham City boss was the 2-1 derby defeat by Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa in November 2007

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce says that he does not want to see his old club Birmingham relegated from the Championship, but is still "desperate" to win Sunday's Second City derby.

Former Blues boss Bruce has "great memories" of the four derby wins he enjoyed over Villa when they first got promoted to the Premier League in 2002.

But he has only one priority now as Villa manager - and that is winning.

"I want Blues to stay up but I want to beat them this Sunday," he told BBC WM.

"I'm one of the privileged few who've managed both clubs. But my allegiance is to the club who employ me and I have to remain professional.

"I will be desperate to turn them over just as like I would be if I was in the opposing dug-out."

Added to two draws in the 2003-04 season, Bruce's Blues initially went unbeaten in his side's first six derby games with Villa before they then lost twice to David O'Leary's team in 2005-06.

That was capped by a key Easter Sunday 3-1 defeat, highlighted by a stunning Gary Cahill overhead kick, which helped send Bruce's side down.

When the two sides met again, in November 2007, a 2-1 home defeat by Martin O'Neill's Villa proved to be his last game before he resigned in disillusionment at the way the club was being run in the middle of a long-drawn-out takeover to join Wigan Athletic.

After scoring at the Tilton End, Gary Gardner's goal for Villa at St Andrew's in Sunday's first derby of the season took him all the way to the travelling fans in the Railway Stand
Gary Gardner, who scored Aston Villa's goal in the 1-1 draw at St Andrew's in October, could be up against brother Craig in a midfield tussle on Sunday

'Harry being back will add spice'

While Bruce bowed out from Blues with a derby game at St Andrew's, it book-ends Sunday's derby quite nicely that Harry Redknapp should be beginning his reign as Birmingham City boss in the reverse fixture at Villa Park.

With three games left, prior to Saturday's games, Blues were three points clear of trouble after an awful run of just two wins in 24 matches since making the decision to replace Gary Rowett with Gianfranco Zola in December.

"With the predicament Blues already find themselves in, and with Harry now coming in, it adds that extra bit of spice," Bruce told BBC Sport.

"Overnight, a manager goes and someone like Harry comes back in. If they wanted to add some spice, then, Harry being Harry, they've got it. Even at 70, you can see he's still got that enthusiasm. It never leaves you.

"They'll need that bounce too as it looks like they'll need a win in one of their last three games.

"They've been on a tough run but I'm sure he's confident he can keep them up.

"He's wonderfully experienced. He and Steve Cotterill will try and breathe a bit of confidence into them."

Steve Bruce and Harry Redknapp have frequently been in opposite dug-outs
Steve Bruce and Harry Redknapp have frequently been in opposite dug-outs over the past two decades

'Harry should have managed England'

Steve Bruce knows better than most what it means to be turned down by his country.

Largely regarded as one of the best uncapped players never to play for England, he was then interviewed for the job of manager when Roy Hodgson stood down last summer, only for the Football Association to opt for the ill-fated appointment of Sam Allardyce instead.

Had Bruce been in charge of the FA, it would have been Redknapp's job and not Hodgson's in the first place, back in 2012.

"He made a very good Tottenham manager and, in many people's eyes, and mine too, I thought he was a stick-on for the England job," said Bruce.

"No disrespect to Roy Hodgson. who is another very good football man but, we all thought Harry deserved it.

"It didn't go his way, for whatever reason. But nobody would have denied him the chance because of what he's done for the game.

"His teams always play in the right way and are attractive to watch, he always produces very good players and he's just a really, really good football man. I'm glad to see him back.

"He might be 70, but he's still got that sparkle about him. I don't know if he had retired or not but his enthusiasm is there for all to see. It's in his blood. "

Steve Bruce is not the only ex-Blues man on duty at Villa Park on Sunday. First team coach Stephen Clemence (left, celebrating Emile Heskey's opener at St Andrew's in March 2005) played in two of Birmingham's four derby victories under Bruce
The other ex-Blues man on duty on Sunday is coach Stephen Clemence (left, celebrating Emile Heskey's opener at St Andrew's in 2005), who played in two of City's four derby wins under Bruce

Bruce's role in the Second City derby

Traditionally, and still a big talking point for older fans, Aston Villa's main rivals in the West Midlands have always been West Bromwich Albion, as well as another founder member of the Football League, Wolves.

That all changed when Blues returned to the top flight under Bruce in 2002, to help rekindle the second city derby, for the first time since Villa won promotion from the old Division Two at the first attempt under Graham Taylor in 1988.

"There'd been no derby for 15 years before that, which added to it," said Bruce. "And I was shocked at the ferocity of it.

"You can talk about the great derbies, the North East derby and the Glasgow derby. But this is always a great derby too. This is a big occasion for the supporters of both teams."

And he has a double message to both fans and players. "There's a rivalry," he said. "But let's not take it past that. This is the second city of this country. Go and roar your head off, go and have your beers, but leave it at that.

"And, on the pitch, it's about the ones who can handle the pressure in a huge atmosphere. You get carried away with the game and do stupid things. You just hope it's a bit of individual magic that wins the game and not a mistake.

"We had a bad Easter weekend. We made more mistakes at Fulham than we had in two months. "If we can stop that, we'll give ourselves a chance."

Steve Bruce was talking to BBC Sport's Mark Regan and Pat Murphy

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