David Gold says that it is only a matter of time before the name of Steve Bruce is linked with some of the best jobs in English football.
Gold, the Birmingham City chairman, has been impressed with how his manager has turned a beleaguered team, recently relegated from the Premiership, into a younger one that could end 2006 at the top of the Championship table.
The inevitable consequence of Birmingham's mini-decline was that Bruce, once regarded as a gifted young manager, is no longer mentioned when more prominent jobs become available.
That could change if, as is becoming increasingly probable, Birmingham reclaim their place in the Premiership.
It was a freak of timing that gave Steve McClaren the England job in August and ruled Bruce out of the equation altogether. It was a freak of timing that kept Sven-Goran Eriksson in the position two years before and frustrated the hell out of Gold.
When Bruce was at his hottest, and in the process of building what should have been the best Birmingham City team of all time, rumours were rife that Eriksson had outstayed his welcome. It was the summer of 2004.
Gold, the Birmingham chairman, was pushing the credentials of Bruce, hoping that the decision-makers at the Football Association would appoint an English head coach.
But once Birmingham slipped into decline, and endured relegation in spring 2006, Bruce's name was not mentioned when Eriksson decided that it was better for everybody to move on.
McClaren, who had begun the season badly, took Middlesbrough to the Uefa Cup final at just the right time. Even though he was not first choice, or even the best candidate, he acquired the job. The timing was in his favour.
And so, while McClaren was dispensing with David Beckham, Bruce was dispensing with virtually an entire Birmingham team and preparing for life in the Championship. The contrasts between the two men could hardly have been greater.
Parity may yet return if Birmingham are promoted back to the Premiership at the end of the season and if, as seems possible, McClaren continues to make an average side out of what should be a talented England team.
Certainly Gold has not given up hope of Bruce one day becoming the England head coach. There is self interest, of course, and also a political desire to ensure that a foreigner never takes this position again.
Overall, however, Gold is convinced that Bruce is among the best men for whenever — if ever — the job becomes available.
"I remain certain that, had Sven-Goran Eriksson left after Euro 2004, Steve would have stood an excellent chance of being the England manager," Gold said.
"And I certainly gave my recommendations to the Football Association, telling them how highly I rated Steve and what a good manager he would be.
"In 2004, Steve was well placed for the job and doing well with Birmingham. He was in pole position, I think.
"Just as importantly, he is a man who can carry the supporters, and England needed that. I am not sure Sven did carry the fans in that way.
"But things changed, of course. There was no vacancy because Sven kept his job. And two years later, just at the time when the job was available, Birmingham were fighting relegation.
"Well, the manager of a team that has just been relegated is not going to get the England job. That is reality."
But Gold can see the time when Bruce is again linked with the position and the Birmingham chairman would welcome the speculation.
"It is simple, as far as I am concerned," Gold said. "If Steve Bruce is linked with any England managerial vacancy in the future, then that means Birmingham are doing well. And that is what we all want here.
"Better still, if Steve Bruce got the England job one day — something that I believe could happen — then that would really emphasise how well he did with Birmingham. The mutual benefits would be obvious."
Nevertheless, Bruce has unfinished business at St Andrew's and there is no vacancy at Soho Square, where the Football Association nervously wait to see if McClaren can revive hope.
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