Steve Bruce continues to unearth gems in the transfer market

Sunderland manger Steve Bruce snapped up two of the most sought after free agents of the summer last week when he secured the services of Seb Larsson and Kieren Westwood, it should come as no surprise, Bruce is an astute speculator in the transfer market, with a long list of unearthing gems or recognising unheralded talent.

Bruce tends to conduct his business early and Ji Dong-won was also acquired last week, the 20 year old midfielder shone at January’s Asian Cup and Sunderland secured his services for around £2m, stealing a march on PSV Eindhoven and Schalke. Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner look set to join Ahmed Elmohamady with £20m from the sale of Jordan Henderson boosting his coffers.

Bruce has signed Larsson for the second time, previously signing him from Arsenal when in charge at Birmingham, for around £1m after a successful loan spell. His inspired signings at St Andrews do not end there; Jermaine Pennant was also brought in after a fruitful loan spell from Arsenal. His time at the club acting as a rehabilitation of sorts after a drink driving conviction, signing as damaged good and leaving with his reputation enhanced and for a tidy profit, Liverpool parting with £6.7m to secure his services. Matthew Upson was also procured from the North Londoners for a measly £1m and played over 100 games before departing for West Ham in a £6m deal. Christophe Dugarry and Mikael Forssell were inspired loan signings, although their form dissipated when the moves were made permanent, Dugarry netted five in five to help maintain Birmingham’s Premier League status in 2003, while Forrsell scored 17 times in 2004 as Birmingham finished 10th.

At Wigan, Bruce’s recruitment policy went truly global, Amir Zaki’s loan spell from Zamalek was initially a huge success, scoring 10 goals before disciplinary concerns cost the Egyptian a permanent deal. Bruce acted on a recommendation from Arsene Wenger to bring Wilson Palacios to England from Olimpia in Honduras, initially on trial which became a six month loan deal at Birmingham, then signing him permanently when installed at Wigan. Fellow Honduran Maynor Figueroa arrived under similar circumstances and both have proved to be excellent signings, with Palacios eventually moving to Spurs for £12m. Colombian Hugo Rodallega, signed from Necaxa in Mexico, tends to blow hot and cold but remains good business at £4.5m.

Over the years, Bruce has not been averse to reuniting with players that have served him well in the past. Mario Melchiot and Emile Heskey performed admirably for him at both Birmingham and Wigan, Lee Cattermole has also added a combative presence to the midfields of Wigan and Sunderland. Titus Bramble, a figure of fun in some quarters, has accompanied Bruce at Wigan and, controversially for a former Newcastle player, Sunderland, where he has overcome initial trepidation, proving to be good value for money on both occasions.

Steve Bruce’s extensive scouting network and try-before-you-buy policy has set him apart in recent years and unless his peers follow suit, will continue to do so in the future.

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