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Steve Spooner tips Jude Bellingham to succeed after emotional farewell to Blues

Birmingham City v Derby County – Sky Bet Championship – St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Jude Bellingham has been tipped to impress on the highest stages after signing off his Birmingham career in tears in their 3-1 defeat to Derby.

The 17-year-old midfielder, who has signed a five-year contract with Borussia Dortmund worth £60,000 a week in a £30million deal, left the St Andrew’s pitch in an emotional state after succumbing to cramp in the 75th minute.

“Jude has a very bright future,” said Blues interim head coach Steve Spooner.

“He is beyond his years mentally and speaks with such calmness and assuredness and has such a thoughtful manner.

“So the potential for things to go wrong off the pitch I don’t think will come his way because he is so well rounded and has such a supportive family around him.

“On the pitch the sky is the limit for him. He can play anywhere – it’s very hard to pin him down in one position.

“With the player he is and the talent he has he will really blossom over there.

“Seeing him day in, day out, I just don’t know how he handles the pressure so well.”

Blues avoided relegation on the last day for the third time in six seasons but they ended the campaign having gone 15 games without a win and with just five points from 45.

“To go that long without a victory is very concerning,” admitted Spooner.

“We knew the situation when we came in and we’ve tried to put our stamp on it and we’ve seen that in the improvement in performances.

“But unfortunately we haven’t had enough games (in charge) to have got that win.”

Spooner, who has been promoted from coaching the under-23 team, admitted his own future is unclear.

Derby manager Phillip Cocu was delighted to finish the campaign on a winning note after a run of four straight defeats cost them a play-off place.

“Absolutely. It was what we had focused on after a difficult end to the season against top teams in the league,” said Cocu.

“If you win your last game to end the season you get a positive feeling and especially now with Morgan (Whittaker) and ‘Sibs’ (Louie Sibley) getting their goals.

“We sat down before the game and knew we have to have the right mindset.

“We knew it would be tough as they needed at least a point but we pushed until the end.”

Cocu was relieved to see Whittaker score his first senior goal, in his 15th league appearance, although 14 of those games have been as a substitute.

“It was good to see he got his first goal and an assist,” he added. “He came on in quite a few matches but could not get into games and bring what we had seen in training and now he has.

“It was important to get your first goal, particularly for a player like he is, and also an assist.”

A mistake by Derby captain Wayne Rooney which led to Ivan Sunjic’s 56th-minute equaliser appeared to make Blues safe.

Late goals from Whittaker and substitute Louie Sibley clinched it for the Rams after Graeme Shinnie put them ahead in the sixth minute.