Steve Bruce has named Robbie Savage as one of the three most difficult Premier League players he ever managed.

Despite currently being without a job, the 62-year-old is regarded as an experienced Premier League manager - but his tenure in charge at Birmingham came early on in his coaching career. Bruce took charge of the Blues in 2001 and remained there until 2007, with midfielder Savage playing under him for two and a half seasons.

Savage showed his quality on his way to claiming the club’s Player of the Year award in 2003. Yet the fiery Welshman was as much of a handful to deal with off the pitch as he was to opponents on it, according to his former boss.

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Speaking to Gambling Zone, Bruce explained: “I had an awful time with Hatem Ben-Arfa. I thought it would be a masterstroke to get him at Hull, but it ended up being a disaster for both of us! It didn't work at all.

“There are different aspects to management - there are some who are difficult because of their personality, and Ben-Arfa was one. Mr. Savage was one, as well. Not in a bad, bad way, but he made it difficult when he wanted to go to Blackburn.”

Savage submitted a transfer request in January 2005 in the hope of securing a move to a club closer to his parents - based in Wrexham. He successfully forced through a move to Blackburn, where he spent three years.

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SAVAGE....PIC TIM EASTHOPE....6..... Pictured signing for Birmingham City is Robbie Savage from Leicester City with manager Steve Bruce
Robbie Savage signed for Steve Bruce in 2002
BLUES TRAINING....PIC TIM EASTHOPE....2..... Pictured are the Blues palyers in first day of training at Wast Hills, pictured is Steve Bruce shares a joke with Robbie Savage
Robbie Savage received the Player of the Season award at Birmingham

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Bruce added: “I think the art of management is earning the respect of players, especially these days. The greatest player I ever managed was Christophe Dugarry, a World Cup winner with France. He saved our season at Birmingham, but he was a bit difficult to manage - yet a wonderful footballer.

“I'd chalk it up to differing personalities. You had the extreme with Robbie and Hatem, who thought he was better than Hull and wanted to do things his way. Dugarry was different. He was easily the best football player I ever had the privilege to manage. He could have played for any team. He was that good.

HULL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: New Hull City signing Hatem Ben Arfa gets some advice from manager Steve Bruce before coming on for his debut during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and West Ham United at KC Stadium on September 15, 2014 in Hull, England.
Hatem Ben Arfa thought he was "better than" Hull

“Robbie was always demanding, you can still see it now. He's always looking for that bit of confrontation. That's what makes him a fierce competitor. He was non-stop.”

Despite Bruce’s observations, the Manchester United legend claims he and Savage have recently “rekindled” their friendship, adding that the Welshman had a “wonderful appetite for the game”. And the respect appears to be mutual, with Savage repeatedly coming to Bruce’s defence after he was subject to abuse towards the end of his spell with Newcastle.

The pundit was an ardent supporter of Bruce even after he won just two out of 21 matches. He praised the singing of Joe Willock on loan and blamed injuries for the Magpies’ lack of form.