What Birmingham City will miss most about Steve Bruce is his skill in the January sales. Brian Dick reviews six years of transfer dealings.
BRUCE'S BEST BARGAIN BUYS
*Christophe Dugarry (loaned January 2003)
The Frenchman had the same effect on Birmingham City as his compatriot Eric Cantona had on Manchester United. The only difference was he brought a World Cup winner's medal with him.
Dugarry's capture, midway through Blues' first Premiership campaign, was the catalyst that kept them up. Although it took him an age to score his first goal, no-one cared as his craft and vision elevated the team's ambitions.
When he did break his duck, he went into overdrive. Five goals in four games included a brace in the 3-2 win over Southampton. In this form, he was arguably one of the best players ever to play for the club.
The following season, having been signed permanently in the summer, the magic stopped. Frustrated by injuries, he scored just once in 15 games, but picked up five bookings and a red card.
Citing family reasons, he retired close to the end of the season and returned to France. Yet Birmingham fans will never forget those few heady months of the spring of 2003.
* Stephen Clemence (signed January 2003)
Clemence's impact was not as spectacular as Dugarry's, but the steady way he marshalled Birmingham's midfield was invaluable until he left for Leicester City this summer.
Rarely injured and suspended just twice in nearly 140 appearances, the man who cost only £250,000 must be considered one of Bruce's best pieces of business.
He was never more important to Birmingham than last season, when he not only skip-pered the side out of the Championship but is widely regarded as having saved his manager's job.
With results slipping, Blues faced a crucial clash with promotion rivals Derby County and it was the captain who scored the only goal of the game. Though the St Andrew's board were never that close to sacking Bruce, Clemence's winner turned the season around.
His value is reflected in the fact that the Foxes paid four times as much as Bruce had to take him across the Midlands.
*Matthew Upson (signed January 2003)
Signed as a promising, but bit-part and injury-prone centre half from Arsenal, Upson turned into an England international under Bruce.
In four years at St Andrew's, he played 128 times and, alongside with Cunningham, formed the backbone of the team that stayed in the Premiership for three seasons.
Indeed, it was two injuries to Upson, the second a cruel Achilles tendon tear, that were a big factor in Birmingham falling out of the top flight. That tendon injury made him unavailable to Bruce from February until the end of the 2005-06 campaign when Blues slipped out of the league.
In his first start since recovering, he scored in the 3-0 win over Plymouth Argyle and, like Clemence, helped steady the ship.
But international aspirations and a perceived lack of excellence in the club's handling of his injury turned the relationship sour and he was sold to West Ham United in January - only to suffer a season-ending injury at Aston Villa.
*Jermaine Pennant (signed January 2005)
Bruce worked harder to secure Pennant than any other player; indeed, he even went to see him in prison after the winger was sent down for driving while disqualified.
Pennant started off well but had his first season curtailed by that spell in jail, only to return in even better form. That prompted Bruce to turn the loan arrangement with Arsenal into a permanent transfer and, although he still had his difficulties with Pennant's off-field behaviour, the winger was Blues' best player in the relegation season and had even been talked about as a future international.
The Coca-Cola Championship was never going to be his natural home and Bruce pulled off a second masterstroke when Liverpool paid £6.7 million for the player.
*Jamie Clapham (signed January 2003)
Left back seems to have been the position Bruce had most problems filling during his time at the club but Jamie Clapham, who arrived on the same day as Clemence, came closer than most.
Bought from Ipswich Town for £1.3 million, Clapham made 97 appearances in just over three years and was the one player Birmingham could not do without.
Susceptible to hamstring problems, he missed a number of games and when he did, people like Darren Carter ended up filling in.
Clapham will forever be remembered as part of the 2003 fortification process that kept City in the Premiership, although his personal highlight was the goal he scored in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United in December 2005. he is currently on loan to Leeds United from Wolverhampton Wanderers, whom he joined in August 2006.
NOW WHERE DID I PUT THAT RECEIPT?
*Luciano Figueroa (signed August 2003)
Figueroa burst on to the scene with Rosario in 2003 when he finished as top scorer in Argentina's top flight, including five in one game against the mighty Boca Juniors.
That persuaded Birmingham to pay £2.5 million for the 22-year-old but, after a legal battle with Spanish outfit Osasuna who claimed they had also signed him, Bruce perhaps wished he hadn't bothered. The manager believed Figueroa was too slight to succeed in English football and, after playing him twice as a substitute, cancelled his contract.
He went to Mexico and joined Cruz Azul where he began scoring freely enough to earn another move to Spain with Villareal, for whom he appeared in the Champions League. He is now in Italy, at Serie A side Genoa.
*Jesper Gronkjaer (signed July 2004)
The winger was regarded by some as a steal when Bruce paid Chelsea £2.2 million for him as part of his plan to produce a more attractive and incisive team. He was also the first casualty.
The Denmark international lasted less than six months and made just 13 Premier League starts for Blues without scoring. His performances started off reasonably, but he started playing within himself and, by December, was clearly unhappy.
He was off-loaded a month later to Atletico Madrid. He spent a year in Germany with VfB Stuttgart but was moved on by manager Giovanni Trapattoni when he criticised the Italian for his conservative tactics. Now 30, he plays at FC Copenhagen.
* Andy Johnson and Clinton Morrison
(sold and signed respectively, July 2002)
A double whammy. Not only did Birmingham lavish £4.25m on the modest talents of Clinton Morrison, they actually gave Crystal Palace Andy Johnson too.
Despite his obvious promise, the youngster spent much of his time playing on the right wing for Bruce and was not considered good enough for a central role.
While Morrison went on to score just 14 league goals in 84 matches, he developed the habit of missing countless chances for Birmingham and then looking like a world-beater for the Republic of Ireland.
No-one could doubt his work ethic, just his top-flight quality. He is now back in the Championship at Selhurst Park. Johnson, meanwhile, has shown he has both. At Palace, he scored 74 times at an average higher than a goal every other game.
That earned him a move to Everton where he has found the net nearly as many times as Morrison in half the matches and has played for England eight times. Ouch....
*David Dunn (signed July 2003)
Bruce set a new club record when he liberated David Dunn from Blackburn Rovers and thought he'd bought the creative dynamo his side had always lacked.
He might well have done but the midfielder's stop-start-stop Blues career ground to a halt in January this year when he returned to Ewood Park. The three-and-a-half years in between had been a misery for both player and manager.
Despite starting well with a debut winner against Tottenham Hotspur, a series of injuries limited his contribution, including a hamstring problem that took two years out of his Blues career. He made just 46 starts in more than three
seasons and was sold back to Blackburn for £2.2 million. He has played 18 times for them this season.
* Walter Pandiani (signed August 2005)
Having originally joined on loan in January 2005, 'The Rifle' could have appeared in the first half of this saga but his time at St Andrew's will have to be considered an error.
That is the verdict if no other reason than Bruce spent the summer trying to get the Uruguayan to sign permanently, when he should have been looking for a central defender to replace Kenny Cunningham.
Pandiani started brilliantly and scored 12 minutes into his debut against Southampton, but added just five more in 34 games, many as a substitute.
Bruce was sufficiently impressed with what he saw in the second half of the 2004-05 campaign that he virtually walked £3m to La Coruna to get his man. By January 2006, he sent Pandiani back to Spain in exchange for little more than £1m. 'The Rifle had shot his bolt'