BIRMINGHAM City completed their swoop for Middlesbrough defender Steve Vickers last night.

The 34-year-old, who has been on loan at St Andrews for a month, has been a target of new City boss Steve Bruce for some time and could cost as much as £500,000.

Bruce tried to sign Vickers while in charge at Crystal Palace this season and, despite the veteran centre-back not being too keen on a move to the capital, a deal was close to being agreed.

But former Manchester United skipper, Bruce, resigned from his post at Selhurst Park and has only recently been installed as Birmingham boss.

A Boro spokesman said: '"We have completed the transfer of Steve Vickers to Birmingham for an initial fee of £425,000, rising to £500,000 after a set number of appearances.''

Vickers has not played in a Boro shirt since the humiliating 4-1 reverse against North-East rivals Newcastle United on September 8.

The move was always likely after the former Tranmere man, who moved to the Teesside club in December 1993, admitted that he knew his future lay elsewhere.

After nine years at Boro he felt it was a wrench to leave, but thought it was in his best interests after it became clear he was no longer part of manager Steve McClaren's plans.

McClaren brought in Gareth Southgate during the summer and the partnership between the England defender and Ugo Ehiogu at the back has gone from strength to strength.

Vickers was signed by former boss Lennie Lawrence in December, 1993 for £700,000.

Meanwhile, McClaren has dismissed reports that he is close to signing Tromso's £2m rated Morten Gamst Pedersen.

But the Boro boss stressed he would continue to monitor the progress of the 20-year-old striker. And Boro have denied that they have offered a trial to Iranian Alireza Vahedinikbakht.

The 26-year-old centre-back is available for £1.5m from Iran club Esteghal and it was thought that Boro were the English club who had offered the player a trial with a view to a permanent switch.

However, Vahedinikbakht, who appeared for his country in their recent World Cup play-off defeat against the Republic of Ireland, is not on McClaren's list of targets.

Vahedinikbakht has also been attracting interest from Italian side Perugia.

l Leicester's former Middlesbrough striker Brian Deane is convinced Leeds can win the Barclaycard Premier League, despite orchestrating a smash and grab raid against his former club yesterday.

On his full debut following a £250,000 move from Boro, Deane scored City's first before setting up Jamie Scowcroft's late leveller as Dave Bassett's battlers snatched an unlikely point from a 2-2 draw at Elland Road.

It was a memorable return for Leeds-born Deane to his old stamping ground, where he scored 32 League goals in 138 appearances between 1993 and 1997.

Deane said: ''I think Leeds can go all the way. They've got tremendous players in their squad, and I certainly feel they will be in the top two at the end of the season.''

Deane's heroics gave Leicester a priceless point in their battle against the drop.

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