Danny Mills is adamant that he will not be forced out of Manchester City unless he wants to leave. The manager, Stuart Pearce, has told the former England full-back that he should look for another club this summer as he no longer figures in his first-team plans.
The news has come as a blow to the 31-year-old defender, who felt he was playing himself back to top form earlier this season before a broken leg ruled him out for three months of what turned out to be a disappointing campaign for City.
But, while Mills is prepared to listen to any offer during the summer, with three years on a lucrative contract still to run - part of which will be paid by his former club Leeds for another season - the defender has no intention of just being shoved through the exit door.
"I am open-minded about my future," Mills told BBC Radio Manchester. "You never close any doors in football. The club has given me permission to talk to other clubs and try to find something else. I will look at any offer but ultimately, the ball is in my court. I have three years left on my contract and if I want to stay and fight for my place, that is what I will do."
Pearce's decision has come as a blow to Mills, particularly as he felt he had overcome some of the scepticism his manager felt towards him immediately after succeeding Kevin Keegan as manager in March 2005.
"One of his first decisions was to drop me," recalled Mills, who will be working at the World Cup as a summariser for BBC Radio Five Live. "I took it on the chin, came back in pre-season, got myself fit and back into the side.
"The manager even brought me into his office and told me how well I was doing and how he wanted me to keep it going. I was even joking that perhaps I should bring my agent in to discuss a new contract. But then I got injured and only played five games from the end of November onwards."
Mills felt sufficiently disgruntled about the situation to talk to Pearce, although given City's form over the final two months of the campaign, he felt he was fully justified.
"I did question one or two of the manager's decisions but I felt I had every right to," he said. "We lost 10 out of our last 11 games and our form since the FA Cup defeat to West Ham was appalling." He added: "What has happened doesn't really hurt. That is football. You get used to it. I am old enough and experienced enough to deal with it. But it has surprised me slightly."