Failed striker clashes with top striker

FAILED striker Alex Bruce will clash head-on with the Championship's top-rated attacker at Portman Road tomorrow.Rowan Vine is Luton's leading marksman with nine goals, including seven in his last eight games for the fifth-placed Hatters.

By Mel Henderson

FAILED striker Alex Bruce will clash head-on with the Championship's top-rated attacker at Portman Road tomorrow.

Rowan Vine is Luton's leading marksman with nine goals, including seven in his last eight games for the fifth-placed Hatters.

His tally - just one less than he managed in the entire 2005-2006 campaign - also puts him alongside Robert Earnshaw of Norwich as the Championship's top scorer.


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Vine, 24, has also shot into pole position in the Actim Index, the Championship's official ratings system and which is also used to assess Premiership stars.

It all adds up to a tough assignment for Ipswich defender Bruce in tomorrow's live-on-Sky clash, which kicks off at 1.15pm.

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The Town star revealed he had visions of becoming a striker himself until he was shown the door at Manchester United, the club his father, Birmingham boss Steve, skippered with such distinction.

Bruce, 22, said: “I started off playing as a striker when I was a young lad. You tend to go for the glory of scoring goals when you're that age.

“I was a kid at United alongside people like Kieran Richardson, Phil Bardsley and David Jones, who have all made the first team.

“Phil is my best mate in football. We've known each other since we were nine years old. He's on loan at Rangers at the moment and we are always talking on the phone.”

But while Richardson has gone on to win England honours, and the other pair have clocked up a handful of senior appearances, Bruce had no choice but to take an alternative route into the big-time.

He added: “I was absolutely devastated when United told me I wasn't good enough. It was humiliating, to be honest, because I was the only one they released.”

Bruce got back on track by joining Blackburn, but when manager Graeme Souness left to join Newcastle and was replaced by Mark Hughes he feared the worst.

He explained: “Mark (Hughes) had played alongside my dad at United but the new assistant manager was Mark Bowen, who had been in a similar position at Birmingham with my dad until they had a fall-out.

“Unfortunately I think he still held a grudge and that made it quite difficult for me at Blackburn and I was transferred to Birmingham as part of the Robbie Savage deal when he moved to Ewood Park.

“But I had three years at Blackburn. I still regard joining them as the best thing I ever did and Rob Kelly, who is now the manager at Leicester, made me as a player in my time there.”

The personal duel between Bruce and in-form Vine promises to be one of the highlights of tomorrow's game, when a home win should lift Town into the top half of the table.

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