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If football is a game of Monopoly, then Steve Bruce was last night close to trading in his Get Out Of Jail Free card by losing the magical, match-rescuing services of Stern John.
By agreeing to sell him to Coventry City for £250,000, Birmingham City are even set to make a small profit on the striker Bruce bought from Nottingham Forest as one of his first signings in February 2002. But, as far as John's impact in a Royal Blue shirt is concerned, the £150,000 they paid Forest for him is an investment long since paid back.

John, who sensed his time at St Andrew's was up when Blues signed his Trinidad & Tobago international compatriot Dwight Yorke late last month, was actually close to returning to Forest. They, like the Sky Blues, also agreed a fee and remained interested to the end, especially as John's move to Highfield Road had yet to be completed by last night.

But John (also linked last week with a move to Leeds United) was in Coventry yesterday afternoon having his medical and appears to have chosen the Sky Blues.

Set to become the first player that cash-strapped Coventry have spent money on (other than a nominal fee for Scott Shearer two summers ago) in three years, John might yet be available to pep up a forward line for the first time tomorrow night when Gillingham visit Highfield Road. But he will not be a Blues player much longer. Disappointing though some of his more recent performances have been, his past efforts ensure that he will leave St Andrew's a folk hero.

After scoring on his debut at home to Barnsley, John's eight goals in 18 games helped fire Blues to promotion three seasons ago. The most crucial of them, and easily the most profitable, was the one in the last minute of the play-off semi-final against Millwall at the New Den that took Blues to the Millennium Stadium. That strike launched John's penchant for scoring late goals - he struck in injury time at Villa Park in February.

Lack of first-team chances last season meant that John was sparingly used and he had to think long and hard before signing a new two-year deal in the summer. But persuading him to sign that contract has been to Blues' benefit, enabling them to command a fee for the 27-year-old.

After less than a fortnight with two Caribbean strikers on Blues' books, John's departure means that there is only one again in Yorke.

Blues' latest signing made his debut in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough at the Riverside. But the effect was limited after he was selected to start in a primarily left-sided midfield role in which he did most of his best work back on the edge of his own penalty area.

Bruce said: "It was a bit difficult for Dwight to make any sort of real impact.

I played him in a left-side role and we all know that's not his best position.

"But, with the injuries to Stan Lazaridis, David Dunn and Jamie Clapham, we're short down that side. I asked him to do a job and he did that, but I know full well where he'll be most effective for us when we've stopped having to mix and match."

Yorke's arrival may have given Bruce the breathing space to give Mikael Forssell the chance to shake off his knee problem.

But, in the eyes of Emile Heskey, a striker well used to being played out of position at Liverpool and for England, it's far too early to judge him.

"It was only Dwight's first game," he said.

"But we all know what he's capable of and we can go on from here."