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Incensed Blues hit back.

Byline: By Brian Dick

The emotion aroused by Birmingham City's pitiful relegation to the Coca-Cola Championship showed no sign of abating yesterday as the club angrily responded to criticisms made by their former captain Kenny Cunningham.

Earlier this week Cunningham, who has a reputation as an intelligent and conscientious professional, hit out at Birmingham's manager Steve Bruce and owners David and Ralph Gold and David Sullivan after requesting an interview with the local media.

He had been upset at the mud-flinging directed at his colleagues on the City playing staff and argued that instead of just blaming the men on the pitch, those that walk the corridors of power should also accept their share of culpability.

He lambasted Bruce for overseeing 'a lack of organisation, preparation and attention to detail' and predicted that the current owners would 'walk away' and that when they did there would not be an outpouring of sentiment amongst supporters.

Within hours the club had countered those charges with a statement, bordering on the vitriolic, posted on their website in which they chastised Cunningham for talking to the press without permission and questioned his authority to speak on the subject of City's future.

It read: "The club is currently experiencing an extremely sensitive period, yet Kenny, who remains an employee, has chosen to publicly express his views through the media, without seeking prior permission or consultation, and not directly to any member of the Board, despite limitless opportunities to do so . . .

"As a player that has now been released, Kenny Cunningham has no knowledge of the club's financial position or the ambitions and plans in place to achieve success. This has never been the case in the past and neither will it now be the case for the future."

But what appeared to hurt most was the suggestion that Sullivan and the Gold brothers were not committed to the cause.

"[The] owners remain committed to the club and have already embarked on the rebuilding process with offers for players already made and plans in place that will support our prime objective of achieving automatic promotion to the Premier League.

"No supporter should doubt that we will take every step possible to attain Premiership status again and will make the essential changes required."

And in a slight aimed directly at a player who played 144 games in just under four years at St Andrew's and whose integrity has never been in doubt: "It is the chairman and the board who will be here next season picking up the pieces left by a team that have driven the club to relegation. Players such as Cunningham will not.

"It is now time for a fresh start and the club now has no real interest in what Kenny has to say following the manner in which he has chosen to air his opinion. It is for the supporters to decide who they believe has let the club down."

Sullivan was sufficiently piqued to break ranks and put on record his own understanding of the situation.

His former skipper had intimated that because the current regime were not from the area - a la Middlesbrough's Steve Gibson and Jack Walker formerly chairman of Blackburn Rovers - the sense of attachment was not so great.

"I accept Kenny's criticism that we are not from Birmingham and maybe therefore we do not have the local knowledge and passion that a local owner like Jack Walker or Steve Gibson have for their club," Sullivan said.

"But throughout the 13 years we have been at Birmingham we have repeatedly asked for rich local people to invest with us in the club, or if they can do a better job, replace us.

"On no occasion has anybody stepped forward with any offer of significant investment."

"It is the chairman and the board who will be here next season, picking up the pieces left by a team that have driven the club to relegation. Players such as Cunningham will not."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 12, 2006
Words:661
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