The Crystal Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, paid tribute to the work of his caretaker managers, Steve Kember and Terry Bullivant, after his side had twice come from behind to salvage a point at Walsall. He then made it clear that Birmingham would make Steve Bruce their manager only on terms that suited him, including a guarantee not to launch any further raids on his playing or coaching staff.
He also accused the Midlands club of hypocrisy in the way they have conducted their attempt to lure Bruce from Selhurst Park. Jordan has effectively suspended Bruce, who still has two years and seven months of a three-year contract to run, after refusing to accept a resignation letter tendered by the former Manchester United captain on Friday. That followed his refusal of an approach from Birmingham to speak to Bruce last week.
He had threatened to force Bruce to work "a significant period of notice" under the terms of his contract but said last night he "wanted the issue resolved swiftly". However, he said this would come about only if Birmingham agreed to pay substantial compensation and gave a guarantee not to approach any other member of his staff to join Bruce at St Andrew's.
"My first reaction was to say I don't want your stinking money but if it comes to that then Birmingham will have to pay a price that enables us to replace Steve with another top quality manager," he said. "But my position is not driven by wanting compensation. If Steve sees Birmingham as offering him a better opportunity – which I happen to think is a flawed judgement – then that is his call. But what I have to do is make sure my club does not suffer further damage.
"I have two excellent coaches in Steve Kember and Terry Bullivant and a brilliant team, and I am not the kind of guy to be rode roughshod over. I will insist that none of my players or backroom staff goes with Steve Bruce to Birmingham and any settlement will have to reflect that."
Jordan said he bore no animosity towards Bruce but is clearly furious with Birmingham's conduct, in particular their managing director, Karren Brady, at whom he levelled his hypocrisy charge.
Jordan said: "I had a letter from Karren accusing me of fuelling a media circus by repeatedly linking Steve Bruce with the Birmingham job, then on the same day I read that their chairman says he wants my manager. What hypocrites. They are just trying to cover their own backsides. Losing my manager was the last thing I wanted to happen. All of this was coming from Birmingham."
Bruce, whose career as a manager has already now seen him walk out on three clubs in as many years as well as being sacked by Huddersfield, is expected to be at St Andrew's to watch Birmingham face Rotherham tonight, although his unveiling as manager now looks certain to be delayed at least until the midweek match against West Bromwich Albion.
"The ball is in their court," Jordan said. "I'm very relaxed about this. The solution to it lies with the other protagonists, namely Steve and Birmingham City." Kember and Bullivant, meanwhile, have been told they will be rewarded for their loyalty with a guarantee that their jobs are safe. "The chairman has made it clear that any new manager who comes in will be stuck with me and Terry," Kember said.
On the field, Palace, who led the Nationwide First Division two weeks ago, had to battle to avoid a third defeat in four games after Tony Barras had twice given Walsall the lead with first-half headers. Both stemmed from free-kicks aimed at the tall defender by Zigor Aranalde, and Tom Bennett from the right flank.
But Palace equalised twice, the first through David Hopkin's 20-yard drive, the ball somehow finding a way through a crowded penalty area to beat James Walker, although there were complaints from the home side that the corner which resulted in the goal had been awarded incorrectly.
Palace cancelled out the second goal when Dougie Freedman – one of those players whose form Bruce has harnessed successfully in launching Palace's season – fired home his 10th goal of the season 12 minutes from time after Hopkin's pass had slipped him into shooting range.
In fact, Clinton Morrison, who had missed the best opportunity of the first half, had the chance to claim victory in the closing stages but he failed to beat Walker, the Walsall goalkeeper, when one on one.Reuse content