Francis refuses to rule out Birmingham return

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The Independent Online

Trevor Francis last night hinted that he would like another chance to be involved with Birmingham City in the future – only a day after leaving St Andrew's by mutual consent after five and a half years at the club.

Francis admitted he had failed to achieve his prime objective as manager of taking the club into the Premiership, but said he was proud of his achievements in six years in charge. "When I came here the club was not in the best of shape and when I look at the improvements made, on and off the field, I feel I've put together a quality squad and there have been other improvements such as the training ground," he said.

"I have not been able to achieve what I set out to do and take the club into the Premiership, but in my five seasons we have finished 10th, seventh and reached three play-offs and also got to a major cup final. I feel that I have done an excellent job for the football club and while I am no longer the manager I will always support this club.

"It was often said I was destined to come back to manage the club and still I believe some day our paths may cross again. I leave as the most successful manager in the history of the club with more league victories than anyone else and I feel the team will finish in the top six."

Francis revealed he said goodbye to his players at an "emotional" meeting yesterday morning and thanked the fans who chanted his name during the weekend win over Barnsley, his last game in charge.

"I would like to thank the board of directors for giving me the opportunity to manage the club I played for for 10 years," Francis added. "I have been manager for six and 16 years is a third of my life span. It is a long time to be employed by one club and there have been some great times.

"There was quite a bit of scepticism when I came here but I think I have proved I am more than a capable manager.

"On Saturday at Barnsley it was a remarkable demonstration of the support and loyalty given by supporters. I have never experienced anything like it. I came on the pitch at 2.55pm and they chanted my name from then until the end. The team responded with an outstanding performance and I leave the club, I believe, in very good hands."

Birmingham's players remain confident they can push for at least a First Division play-off place this season despite Francis's departure.

Jon McCarthy believes the manager's exit will unite the players and strengthen their resolve to succeed, having come so near yet so far following play-off failure in each of the last three seasons.

"We had a good result on Saturday [3-1 at Barnsley] and felt that was going to be the turning point for us," McCarthy said. "The dispute between the gaffer and board was well documented, and although there was a lot of uncertainty last week we were under the impression he would be with us until the end of the season and everything was fine.

"I am disappointed for him because I know how badly he wanted to take us into the Premier League. But we have had runs like this before and always followed it up with a strong run. I think that at the end of the next 10 games we will be in a good position to challenge for the play-offs."

The assistant manager Mick Mills and the first-team coach Jim Barron have been placed in caretaker charge, starting with tonight's First Division match at Nottingham Forest.

"They know the score, they are experienced men," said Birmingham's captain Martin O'Connor. "It is up to us to get it right on the field. I have spoken to a lot of the players and we all agree that, whatever happens, we have got to concentrate."

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