By Matt Farr

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce admits he was shocked to hear rivals Birmingham had parted ways with manager Gary Rowett.

Rowett was sacked by the club on Wednesday, following a victory over Ipswich, ending a two-year spell in charge at the Championship club.

However, former Birmingham manager Bruce has backed Rowett for a swift return to management, adding that he did “a wonderful job”.

He told the Birmingham Mail: “Nothing surprises me in football anymore but this really was a big shock. I have to admit.

“He obviously didn’t see eye-to-eye with the new owners, they want to go in a different direction.

“It’s totally disappointing for Gary because to the football world, he’s spent very little money, had two top ten finishes and got the team into seventh position in the league.

“He took over in difficult times during the financial restraints. But the one thing about it is he enhanced his reputation and he will be back, I’m sure of that.

“He did a wonderful job there so he can leave that behind.”

Rowett was replaced by Gianfranco Zola, who previously had managerial spells with West Ham and Watford. However, the Italian has been out of work since he was sacked by Qatari side Al-Arabi in June.

With just five defeats this season, Rowett led Birmingham to 8th in the Championship after 21 games – six points ahead of Bruce’s Villa – winning three of his last five games.

In his first season, he drew the plaudits when he guided Birmingham from 21st in the Championship to a 10th-placed finish.

But despite the remarkable achievement, the club still felt a change of personnel was the best way forward for the promotion-seeking Midlands club.

Birmingham are next in action against high-flying Brighton, while Bruce’s Villa travel to struggling Queens Park Rangers.

In other Aston Villa news, Bruce remains optimistic over the availability of this injured-star ahead of their clash with QPR on Sunday.