Birmingham City have clinched the signature of Colchester United midfielder Neil Danns, with Alex Bruce comparing him to West Ham United captain Nigel Reo-Coker.

The 23-year-old Danns, who garnered 16 goals from midfield last season as Colchester were promoted from League One, has completed a £500,000 transfer to St Andrew's. The fee could rise to £850,000 with various additional payments, but it is a calculated gamble by Steve Bruce.

Birmingham's manager has witnessed Danns' development at close quarters, as he was a member of the same youth side as his son Alex while at Blackburn Rovers.

Along with the purchase of Cameron Jerome and the pursuit of Calum Davenport, it represents a seismic shift in the Blues boss's mindset for next term.

Danns, who was selected in the PFA League Two Team of the Year last season, will add energy and potency to Birmingham's engine room next term and, according to Alex Bruce, he will easily adapt to life in the Championship.

"Neil will cope comfortably with this level, as he is young and hungry," said Bruce jnr.

"I played in the youth team with him at Blackburn and he has done really well for himself since he moved on to Colchester. He has made quite a name for himself and scored a lot of goals.

"I would compare Neil to Nigel Reo-Coker as he is excellent on the ball and is always a goal threat."

Danns is a graduate of Lilleshall's School of Excellence, with contemporaries such as Jermain Defoe and is certainly no shrinking violet.

He may have made his debut in the Uefa Cup for Blackburn, but his upbringing in Toxteth, Liverpool ensures that he is a streetwise footballer in a fashion that will appeal to Birmingham's supporters.

And Alex Bruce is adamant that Danns, who scored 28 goals in 87 appearances for Colchester, will appeal to the rest of the playing squad as well, with his quirky sense of humour.

"Neil is certainly not shy. He is a lively Scouser," laughed Bruce. "He will blend into our dressing room perfectly and is a great lad. We have now got a group of young, hungry players and that is a big difference to last year.

"We had a lot of older play-ers last year, but it looks as though the emphasis will be on youth this term. Let's hope we

can gel quickly and be challenging for promotion."

Marcos Painter, Mat Sadler, Alex Bruce, Danns, Jerome and Neil Kilkenny are all likely to feature heavily in the Blues' first-team plans as they attempt to bounce straight back into the Premiership and Danns admits the signing of Jerome from Cardiff City is one that particularly excites him.

"Cameron is the type of player I can feed off," said Danns. "I like to get into the box, so I will always be nibbling around him, as I have sort of got the knack of being in the right place at the right time.

"I've also got quite a bit of skill and can go past a player. However, I don't want to sound like the finished article.

"They are rebuilding the squad here with young, ambitious players and for me to be a part of that is a great opportunity.

"I had a great time at Colchester but when a club the size of Birmingham come in for you, it's hard to say no.

"There is so much prestige about the club and the quality of players that are here, it's a great opportunity for me.

"I think Birmingham will be back in the Premiership before too long because the talent and potential is there."

Meanwhile, rumours persist regarding Emile Heskey's projected transfer to Wigan Athletic. Reports emanating from Lancashire yesterday intimated that the Premiership club were preparing a £5 million swoop for Heskey.

The suggestion is that Birmingham's record signing is expected to open talks with Wigan later this week on his return from America.