Gold backs Bruce in his biggest fight

'You've done it before, now do it again' is message to the manager
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The Independent Online

It might have been assumed that David Gold, presiding over a £535 million property and publishing empire, would have had better things to occupy a highly active mind than still to be analysing the vagaries of football that contributed to Birmingham's descent to the Championship (then the First Division) from whence they came four years ago.

Yet in the week after his team's fate had been decided, he sits in the splendour of his Surrey home and lists sendings off, injuries (a fully justified explanation), and how Ports-mouth had been destined to survive because they played against sides weakened by the loss of significant players.

"It felt like there was a conspiracy against us whatever we did," says the chairman of Birmingham City as he prepares to watch his team play their final game in the Premiership at Bolton Wanderers today. "It sounds like I'm feeling sorry for myself. Well, I am. And I'm not ashamed. But once I get it off my chest, I can then bury it, and say 'that's done'. The grieving's over, in footballing terms. The attempt to restore our Premiership position starts now."

Birmingham's fate reflects Steve Bruce's past year, too. Twelve months ago, with his team having finished a satisfactory 12th, there would have been a sustained campaign on his behalf had an England coaching vacancy arisen. Today, there is not even confirmation that he will be at St Andrews in August.

His chairman, David Gold, appreciates the irony. "Last year, when Steve was doing well, you saw all the qualities essential in an England manager," he says. "You saw the determination. The humour. You saw measured comments from him, and a good relationship between him and the fans and the media. What you didn't see was him on the front pages." He adds: "Last year, I would have supported Steve Bruce as manager of England. Of course, you can't this year. We've been fighting for our lives and now we've got a greater fight on our hands. But I believe the England manager should have the qualities Steve Bruce has, as a personality."

Yet, you put it to Gold that, in football as in politics, there comes a time to freshen things up. "The only argument for starting afresh is if Steve feels it's time for a change for him," he says. "As we see it, Steve Bruce was the manager who took us to the Premier League. He's experienced in doing so. We're now in that same situation, and we would be saying: 'Steve, do it again'."

That was earlier in the week. On Friday evening, after a board meeting, there was no confirmation that the manager would remain in situ. However, Gold's stance remained the same. "The board are fully supportive of him and believe in him," said the City chairman, who added that there would be a further meeting in two weeks' time.

Gold maintains: "We are financially sound and our responsibility is to ensure that when we kick off again there isn't a better squad of players, on paper, in that division. That's all we can do as a board." And make sufficient money available to Bruce? "We're not there just to pile money in," he says. "We have put millions in and brought it to a situation where it's self-sufficient. We're there for emergencies, like when we brought in Dugarry, who kept us in the Premiership, but it mustn't be seen that we're there all the time. We're not Abramovich."

He adds: "We're determined to hang on to all our best players. You can't keep them all. We won't be able to. But we don't have to sell." And Jermaine Pennant will still be with you? "I think he will stick with us."

It does make you wonder why a man of 69, whose remarkable life is chronicled in an autobiography* that is published today, should be prepared to put himself through all the miseries that promotion bids involve. "I don't want this challenge," he says with a smile. "I want to be sitting comfortably, with Birmingham in the middle of the Premier League, but I don't want to give up at a time when I feel that the challenge is probably the greatest."

He adds: "I'm desperate for success. It brings me such a high. That's what drives me on. Success is like an aphrodisiac."

Pure Gold: The Ultimate Rags To Riches Tale by David Gold (Highdown, £18.99)

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