Pennant sent home for being drunk

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Pennant, the 22-year-old winger signed from Arsenal in April while in prison for drink-driving offences, was reported to have turned up at Birmingham's Wast Hills training complex on Sunday still inebriated from the previous night. Birmingham's players had been ordered in on their day-off after losing 1-0 at home to Everton on Saturday.

Sources close to Birmingham suggest that he was sent home by Steve Bruce, the manager credited by Pennant, in an interview with The Independent last Saturday, with helping to put his troubled past behind him. If the report is substantiated, the player can expect a heavy fine and a written warning. "This is an internal matter and I have no other comment," Bruce said yesterday.

Three years ago, Bruce revived a struggling Birmingham during the January transfer window by bringing in Christophe Dugarry, Matthew Upson and others. But after a seventh match without a win - the last four without scoring - Sullivan said a similar change of personnel was unlikely in the new year to restore the team's fortunes.

"The difference is that we hardly had a side back then, whereas now you'd say we had a good side," he told the Birmingham Evening Mail.

"I don't think we can actually get better players than we've got. We've spent all our money and done a pile on wages this season, so we'd be in a dire mess financially if we went down this season. We would go bankrupt. By January we could be so badly adrift it wouldn't make any difference if we signed the whole England team. Saying that, it depends who becomes available and what the prices are."

Bruce still enjoys Sullivan's "100 per cent backing", which would continue even if Birmingham ended up back in the second tier of the English game. "Only then, if we had a terrible start, would I entertain the thought of replacing him," Sullivan said.

The Sport Newspapers publisher acknowledged the injury problems that have deprived Birmingham of David Dunn, Muzzy Izzet and Mario Melchiot, but said it was time for the squad to "start performing".

"The whole side isn't doing enough running; too many players have put in average performances, we can't score goals and we can't win at home. Our strikers are very, very similar, but they cost us £12m to sign and draw £90,000 a week between them, and have scored only three goals between them this season."

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