A New Year seems to have lifted the clouds hanging over Steve Bruce and Birmingham's manager was back to his effusive best.

A 100% record, albeit after one Premiership fixture, and the signing of Chris Sutton has obviously helped but their is an air of optimism permeating St Andrew's that has been absent since the embryonic stages of this campaign.

Seven points from their last three home games, a fortuitous escape in the FA Cup at Torquay, and the impending return of all his players except Jamie Clapham and Mehdi Nafti Prior to Christmas, there was always a feeling at St Andrew's that their season would kick into life in the New Year and so it proved against Wigan.

And they have the perfect opportunity to string back-to-back wins together today, as they visit a Charlton side with only three victories at the Valley all season.

A win for Birmingham could catapult them out of the relegation zone, if results elsewhere go in their favour this weekend.

All of which, along with the strong possibility of Jason Euell wearing a Birmingham city shirt in the next fortnight, has improved Bruce's demeanour immeasurably.

"We need 24 points from 18 games and I would think we are capable of doing that," said a bullish Bruce.

"We have had a horrific time but we haven't tailed off.

"It has been horrible, but if we win our game in hand then we move out of the relegation zone.

"We have still got a lot to play for and we have all the bottom teams at home. So we have got a lot to play for with half the season left.

"We know how difficult it is to put back-to-back wins together, but we have got a huge week coming up with games against Charlton and Portsmouth."

Nevertheless, Bruce is entering this crucial period of fixtures with a fully fit strike force for arguably the first time this season.

Walter Pandiani, who has moved on to Espanyol, never recovered from missing pre-season whilst Mikael Forssell is still working his way back to full fitness.

And Bruce is convinced that Blues will be a different proposition with Emile Heskey and Chris Sutton in tandem.

"Anyone in our position would want a player like Chris, because where do you get someone like that for nothing?" Questioned Bruce.

"Gordon Strachan said to me, that he is as good a centre forward as you will ever work with.

"When you look at the people he has worked with, that is high praise indeed.

"He said he is a top player.

"He possesses a strong mentality and has been a winner all his life.

"Chris is the sort of player who leads from the front.

"Everything about him is exactly what we need at this time to give the club a lift.

"I have only been working with him for just over a week and I can understand what he means.

He is used to playing at this level and he is used to playing with a pressure on him for 15 years.

"He has never been the quickest, but his overall link play is excellent and he knows how to play the position."

While Bruce lauded the arrival of Sutton he was equally gushing in his praise of the departed Pandiani.

The Uruguayan endured a torrid time at St Andrew's since signing permanently in the summer and managed only two goals.

However, with both those strikes earning valuable home points against Liverpool and Manchester United, then Pandiani's contribution could be critical come May.

And Bruce insisted that the former Deportivo La Coruna striker headed off to Espanyol with his best wishes.

"Walter has gone to Espanyol and we wish him well," clarified Bruce.

"It hasn't worked out for him, which is a huge disappointment for me and even more so for him.

"It is a crying shame but how often do we see these things happen in England?

"Especially with a foreign player who makes an immediate impact and then finds it hard work.

"But he was a terrific professional and a great lad.

"He was one of the most popular lads a dressing room could ever have and did everything possible to settle in.

"He moved his family here, bought a house down the road, and sent his three kids to school locally.

"He did everything he possibly could but it didn't quite happen.

"Espanyol signed him 1.5m euros, so we lost 1.5m euros on the deal. We bought him for 3m euros and not #3m as had been reported."