TIMES must be desperate at Bradford City. Too desperate, in fact, for Dan.

The Bantams are in a cock-fight to the death, and the sort of men Jim Jeffries wants to surround himself with are the type who would just snack it up on two cow pies and file metal down on their chin stubble.

When you're scrapping for your life, you put the Queensberry Rules to one side, and start looking for eyes to gouge.

In a fight, the first thing to go is class.

Which is Bradford's loss and Saints gain, in the form of Dan Petrescu.

Blunt northern types will claim that Petrescu is not the sort of man you'd want alongside you in the trenches, which is trenchant nonsense.

The claim from Bradford was that when the going got tough, the tough went shopping, but they don't breed footballers much tougher than in Romania. Life was hard, and produced tough, resolute people.

Petrescu ain't soft or milky. His brand of football didn't suit what Jim Jeffries thought he needed to get out of trouble, while Glenn Hoddle lapped it up.

Hoddle knows Petrescu as both ally and enemy. One of Hod's first overseas signings at Chelsea he remains the only overseas player to pull on the blue shirt more than 200 times.

Hoddle also knows him from his time as England manager, when Petrescu popped up with the winner for Romania in the 1998 World Cup in France.

A misfit at Bradford, Hoddle sees Petrescu as the vital missing piece in his jigsaw, and it's easy to see why.

With Petrescu patrolling the right flank and Wayne Bridge the left, he has two defenders who can switch seamlessly to attack. Saints are already ranked the top team in the Premiership when it comes to getting crosses in. Petrescu's recruitment will only reinforce that.

What are Bradford missing? A player who, even in the hurly-burly of defending, always appears to have time on the ball. That time, of course, is bought by an exquisite first touch. Rarely will you see Petrescu put his foot through the ball and leather it into the stands.

There's a sureness and confidence in his passing, and he's a heads-up player. Hemmed in on the touchline by blue shirts at one point last night, he resisted the temptation to knock the ball into empty space but turned inside, lifted his head and chipped a perfect 40 yard pass to an unmarked Dean Richards in the centre circle.

It was pure class, and that's what you want that when you're sitting pretty and trying to craft wins. You might not think it a good thing if you're so far adrift at the bottom of the table you need snookers to stay up.

Peterscu's awareness of space and how to exploit it in offensive situations bears all the hallmarks of a player approaching 100 caps for his country.

Of course, if he moves into that space he expects to get the ball. If he doesn't and it breaks down then he's stuck like a fish up a tree, and the one danger of playing wing-backs is that there is space to exploit behind them if you have the ball.

When Petrescu does get into space, he delivers. When Pahars weighted a perfect pass into Petrescu's stride, he dropped a perfect cross on to Chris Marsden's head.

But perhaps Petrescu's most important attribute is his uncanny knack of finding space in the opposition box and anticipating where and when the ball is going to drop.

It's not something you can teach anyone. Some players are born with it like otters are born with the instinct to swim. The difference with Petrescu is that most players with this almost mystical knack are strikers.

Hoddle described Petrescu as like a magnet in the opposition penalty area, the sort of man the ball always thuds down at the feet of. The skill is knowing what to do when the ball does plop at your feet.

Petrescu came within a whisker of a first-half goal when he read James Beattie's knock back and failed by a stud-length to make contact.

But he was one the spot to claim a glancing flick to Wayne Bridge's free-kick to mark his Saints debut in style.

Meanwhile, up in Bradford, those checking the Premiership results on Teletext would have let out a quiet moan of resignation when the scorer of Southampton's winner came up.

There is no substitue for class.