Bruce fines Butt £78,000 for walking out on Birmingham

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The Independent Football

Nicky Butt has been ordered to pay £78,000 as punishment for his decision to leave Birmingham City's team hotel without permission, hours before the humiliating defeat against West Ham United on Monday, but he will have to stay at St Andrew's for the remainder of the season.

The Birmingham City manager, Steve Bruce, is angry and upset at the lack of respect shown to him and the rest of his relegation-threatened squad by the actions of the 31-year-old former England international. Despite Butt issuing an apology last night it has not been enough to prevent a fine of two weeks' wages.

Bruce initially considered more extreme action, but cannot force the midfielder, on loan for 12 months from Newcastle United, to return to St James' Park, because of the terms of the agreement signed in August last year. Both sides would have to agree to cancel the loan and the Premier League would have to sanction the move, but Newcastle have no interest in taking Butt back and are desperate to remove his £39,000-a-week salary from their wage bill permanently this summer.

Yesterday Butt tried to make peace with Bruce, his team-mates and the club's fans, saying: "Last night, having been informed that I was not to be a part of the West Ham game, I made a decision that I regret, a decision that was made on the spur of the moment and while I was feeling totally dejected. It was the wrong decision and unacceptable.

"Therefore, I would like to apologise unreservedly to the manager, coaching staff, team-mates and fans for my actions. There is no doubt we are in a battle and it is important that we all stick together. I want to be a part of that and make a contribution to Birmingham City staying in the Premier League," Butt said.

Bruce now has to somehow ensure that the petulant actions of one of his senior players - and a former team-mate of Bruce's at Manchester United - does not have a lasting damage on team morale, more immediately for Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Stoke City and in the long- term for the remaining 13 games they have to preserve their Premiership status.

Butt stormed out of the team hotel moments after he discovered that he had been left out of the starting line-up at Upton Park, in favour of Bruce's son, Alex.

Alex Bruce is a central defender by trade but had been moved to central midfield - Butt's position. Bruce was booked in his side's 3-0 defeat.

Birmingham have an agreement to make Butt's move permanent in the summer, but the player has a clause in the deal stating that it will be scrapped if Birmingham are relegated this season.

Such a refusal to commit himself, whatever the outcome of their struggle against relegation, is hardly likely to endear him to the rest of his Birmingham team-mates. The player who moved to St Andrew's to revive his international career - which now looks to be over - faces a difficult struggle to put his domestic one back together.

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