STEVE Bruce last night revealed that Birmingham had joined Southampton and Celtic in the race to sign Newcastle contract rebel Olivier Bernard.

Bernard, who was part of the United side that lost 1-0 at Arsenal on Sunday, is out of contract at the end of the season and has persistently refused to sign the club's offer of a new five-year deal.

Birmingham signed Arsenal midfielder Jermaine Pennant on loan for the rest of the season yesterday, but Bruce is keen to bolster his side's defence before the transfer window closes next week.

"Olivier Bernard is a player we've made an inquiry about," confirmed the Blues boss. "He was in Newcastle's team (on Sunday) so, whether anything will materialise with that, we are not quite sure.

"Talks will still be ongoing and, if we can do something regarding signing Bernard, then we will try and do it."

Celtic are also monitoring Bernard's situation, and sources north of the border suggest the Scottish champions are poised to test the water with a bid of £500,000.

Whether that is enough to persuade Newcastle to part with the former Darlington loanee remains to be seen, and both Birmingham and Celtic will struggle to meet Bernard's current wage demands.

The Magpies should confirm a signing of their own tomorrow after Portsmouth midfielder Amdy Faye spent yesterday on Tyneside undergoing a medical.

The two clubs are understood to have agreed a £2m fee for the Senegal international and, as Faye missed Pompey's FA Cup third-round win over Gillingham earlier this month, he is free to make his United debut in Saturday's fourth-round clash with Coventry.

Jean-Alain Boumsong is almost certain to miss that game however, after limping out of Sunday's defeat at Highbury with a hamstring problem.

The full extent of Boumsong's injury will be assessed later this week but, after being signed for £8m just two weeks ago, the defender is likely to miss the next two rounds of the FA Cup and crucial league games against Manchester City, Charlton and Fulham.

Newcastle and Sunderland reserves drew 1-1 at Kingston Park last night.

* Veteran Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp hopes to finish his playing career when Arsenal say farewell to historic Highbury at the end of next season.

The Gunners will move to their new multi-million pound Emirates Stadium at the end of next season but Bergkamp, who scored the 19th minute matchwinner against Newcastle on Sunday, is unlikely to be part of the club's new era.

The Dutch striker becomes a free agent in the summer but hinted that he would like to stay on for a further season - Arsenal's last at Highbury.

However, Bergkamp, who will be 36 in May, says the final decision rests with manager Arsene Wenger, who was glowing in his assessment of Bergkamp's contribution against Newcastle.

Bergkamp said: ''As for the future, I feel good. It would be nice to have another year, to experience the last year at Highbury. It has been a big part of my life. But we will see. Everything will be sorted out at the end of the season.

''My decision would be to have another year. "