City board reject former chairman Bernstein's offer to return to club

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Manchester City have rejeced their former chairman David Bernstein's offer of help even though he believes the club have been plunged into an "extremely serious situation".

City appear to be on the brink of imploding as they face one of the most crucial weekends in their history. Defeat at Leicester on Saturday, coupled with a Leeds win over Portsmouth the following day, would send the Blues into the bottom three with three games left.

The prospect of relegation for a club almost £60m in debt and with only Michael Tarnat of the senior squad out of contract in the summer is enough to send a chill down the spine of all City's board members, particularly the chairman, John Wardle, and his fellow director David Makin, who have invested substantial amounts in the club.

Fans who have besieged local media to express their concerns have pointed to the departure of Bernstein last March as the pivotal moment in their decline.

Bernstein was popular with many members of the club's' staff, although his determination to keep control of the club's purse strings brought him into conflict with Kevin Keegan and led to his departure. The trigger was Bernstein's refusal to pay Leeds United £7m for striker Robbie Fowler. A compromise was reached and City spent £6m for Fowler, who has scored 12 goals in 54 games.

Bernstein has remained an interested observer and was at White Hart Lane on Easter Monday to watch the 1-1 draw with Tottenham. And, amid rumours of boardroom unrest and disquiet in the dressing room, Bernstein made his offer to return.

"In view of the extremely serious situation which the club finds itself in. I decided to see whether the club would be interested in my returning with immediate effect," Bernstein said. "I believe I could have made a difference. I am disappointed but hope and pray that the club's results over the next few matches are enough to save us."

There was no likelihood of a return while Keegan remains manager and, privately, City officials have been dismayed at the timing of the revelation.

"Everybody at the club is focused on climbing up the Premiership table," a spokesman at the club said. "At this time of the season, we do not welcome anything that could have a detrimental effect on our situation."