Birmingham are a 'stiff corpse' says Cunningham

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The Independent Football

Cunningham, 34, is still on the payroll, but after being told he would not be offered a new contract, the former Republic of Ireland defender decided to make public his disdain for Bruce's tactics, training methods and accusations against unnamed players.

Bruce repeatedly argued that Birmingham's squad were as talented as any in the division outside the top five teams. Cunningham accepted that they could hold their own against "the likes of Blackburn, Bolton and West Ham", but said: "If you agree with that, you have to find a reason why we finished up to 30 points behind those clubs.

"People might accuse the attitude and application of the players. That's a non-starter. The nucleus of the team is as professional and conscientious as any I've ever played in during my career. Unfortunately, and I take no pleasure in saying this, the reason was a lack of organisation, preparation and attention to detail at the club. The only person who must take responsibility for that is the manager."

Cunningham condemned Bruce's training regime as "nowhere near good enough", adding that the players had voiced their worries about the lack of organisation at regular "crisis meetings". He also attacked Bruce for his "conflicting" revelation that two players had refused to play in the final match at Bolton. "On one hand he was saying players didn't want to play for the club. On the other he wasn't going to name them because he wanted to offer them protection. By not naming the individuals he has, indirectly, put a big question mark over the integrity of every injured player, including myself, that didn't travel to Bolton."

Cunningham went on to deride the notion, given currency by Bruce in view of the club's injury problems, that Birmingham had been the unluckiest side in Premiership history. "If you buy into that, you're burying your head in the sand," he said. The campaign was flawed, he said, because Bruce did not buy an extra striker to complement the three on the books.

While praising the supporters, the former Millwall and Wimbledon player complained of a lack of spirit at Birmingham compared with his previous clubs. "Birmingham seems like a stiff corpse by comparison. It has no heartbeat and, more worryingly, no soul."

One reason, he said, was that the co-owners, David Sullivan and Ralph and David Gold, have no attachment to the area in the way, say, Steve Gibson has at Middlesbrough or Jack Walker had at Blackburn.

Sullivan admitted last night that they lacked the "local knowledge and passion" of such owners but said: "Throughout the 13 years we've been at Birmingham we've repeatedly asked for rich people to invest with us in the club, or if they can do a better job, replace us. On no occasion has anyone stepped forward as nobody wants to put their own money in. It hurts when a player to whom we've paid millions of pounds in salary criticises us for not spending enough money."