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Football: Francis just ran out of friends at the club he loved; CITY BOSS'S TORMENT.

Byline: David MOORE

TREVOR FRANCIS had just one dream - to lead his beloved Birmingham into the Premiership where he believes they belong.

So this morning, 47-year-old Francis must be a broken man following his brutal dismissal yesterday as boss of the St Andrews club.

But the harsh truth is that Francis, who burst to fame as a 16-year-old sensation with the Blues before Nottingham Forest's Brian Clough turned him into British football's first pounds 1million player, had run out of friends where it really matters - in the boardroom.

One by one, chairman David Gold, major shareholder David Sullivan, managing director Karren Brady and Gold's brother Ralf came to the view that they could no longer live with the constantly-complaining Francis.

Now, even the millions he has salted away from a distinguished England playing career plus previous spells in charge of Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday will be no consolation to the heartbroken Francis.

In the space of 36 days, an outbreak of Midlands sacking fever has seen Coventry's Gordon Strachan, Leicester's Peter Taylor, Jim Smith of Derby and Francis dismissed from their posts.

This afternoon, Francis has promised to tell all at a media conference - and the big focus of attention will be the fragile relationship with the Birmingham board that led eventually - and many would say inevitably - to his departure.

Birmingham's initial statement claimed that the parting was "amicable" but chairman Gold hinted at deeper, darker reasons last night.

He commented: "While this is a very sad day for us all, it was not necessarily about recent poor results. What counted was the chemistry, with some people getting worn out."

That was a clear reference to the backstairs bickering often fuelled by arch enemies Francis and Brady - with the volatile Sullivan often heating the controversial debate to red-hot temperatures.

Little more than a week ago, Sullivan accused Francis of attempting to poison City's supporters against the board. In the crazy world of St Andrews, that followed hard on the heels of Brady allegedly telling Francis that most fans wanted HIM out.

Sullivan claimed: "Trevor says the odd little thing here and there. It is like a drip, drip, drip effect.

"People listen to him, and it's done us in. The board are cast as the villains of the piece.

"I sometimes wonder why I drive all the way to Crewe to watch a 0-0 match. Quite frankly, I've never been so p**sed off - I had more fun when we were relegated under Barry Fry.

"We've invested millions in this club, and not asked for a penny back. It makes you wonder why we bother."

Chairman Gold added: "We agreed in the summer that we would not be conducting our business in public. But while I was away on holiday, the mask slipped.

"Being chairman of Blues has personally cost me pounds 250,000 so far. To argue that David and the rest of us haven't done a lot for this club is all wrong. He found Blues and got my brother and me on board because it was such a huge task to rebuild.

"Last week, I had to reassure David that any fans complaining about us were strictly in the minority. I felt so sorry for him. I thought 'poor David,' because he was absolutely mortified.

"In the end, it was a spontaneous decision to sack Trevor. It wasn't easy to do, but I suspect we are all stressed out.

"Now assistant Mick Mills and coach Jim Barron will get their chance."

THE STORY OF THE BLUES - Francis's ups and downs at St Andrews

Appointed: May 1996

1996-97 DIVISION 1

P W D L GF GA Pts

46 17 15 14 52 48 66

FINAL POSITION: 10th

FA CUP: 5th Rnd

LEAGUE CUP: 2nd Rnd

1997-98 DIVISION 1

P W D L GF GA Pts

46 19 17 10 60 35 74

FINAL POSITION: 7th

FA CUP: 5th Rnd

LEAGUE CUP: 3rd Rnd

1998-99 DIVISION 1

P W D L GF GA Pts

46 23 12 11 66 37 81

FINAL POSITION: 4th

FA CUP: 3rd Rnd

LEAGUE CUP: 3rd Rnd

1999-2000 DIVISION 1

P W D L GF GA Pts

46 22 11 13 65 44 77

FINAL POSITION: 5th

FA CUP: 4th Rnd

LEAGUE CUP: 4th Rnd

2000-2001 DIVISION 1

P W D L GF GA Pts

46 23 9 14 59 48 78

FINAL POSITION: 5th Rnd

FA CUP: 3rd Rnd

LEAGUE CUP: Runners-up

2001-2002 DIVISION 1

P W D L GF GA Pts

11 5 2 4 19 16 17

LEAGUE POSITION: 12th

LEAGUE CUP: 3rd Rnd

CAPTION(S):

FRANCIS warns Sullivan and Brady on Sep 29; FRANCIS: End of the road
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 16, 2001
Words:780
Previous Article:GOLF: NICK BAGS GREAT JOB.
Next Article:Football: Bruce to replace Francis at Blues.


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