Sullivan fury focused on Birmingham players

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The Independent Online

David Sullivan, the co-owner of Birmingham City, last night launched a swingeing attack on some of the club's players in the aftermath of the 7-0 FA Cup drubbing by Liverpool but said it would be folly for the relegation-threatened club to dismiss Steve Bruce as manager.

In an outburst that is unlikely to be well received within the Birmingham dressing-room as they prepare for Sunday's match at Bruce's old club, Manchester United, Sullivan railed against the performances, commitment and attitude of unnamed members of the squad. His disillusionment has reached a point where he does not like footballers.

"The players need to look at themselves and stand up to be counted," the Sport Newspapers publisher said in a radio interview. "Some are not playing to their maximum potential. Unfortunately some of them don't see it like that. Some are not earning their money."

Sullivan added: "Whatever happens this season, we are going to bomb a lot of players out in the summer and bring in people that want to play for this club. We have to be much tougher with the players. We must demand more of them.

"We have had occasions when players haven't turned up for club events, and that is very disappointing. They are on £20,000 to £30,000 a week and it does make you incredibly resentful."

Despite Birmingham's worst-ever home defeat ­ which was also Liverpool's biggest away win in the Cup ­ Sullivan had earlier insisted Bruce would not be sacked "in the forseeable future".

He said: "I have reassured Steve, but he knows he is OK. He is as disappointed as anyone. These are dark days and we have to rally round.

"It would be foolhardy to change now, absolute madness. Where would we get someone else from? And if a new manager did come in, do you think he would make any difference? We have nine Premiership games left and still have a chance of avoiding relegation. That has to be our focus."

Sullivan insisted that Bruce's tenure would remain secure "whatever happens" against the top two. Yet he appeared to write off those fixtures as a source of points in Birmingham's bid to escape 18th place, saying: "It's not our job to say anything to the players; it's the manager's. They know it's not good and we just hope in the next few games we can get through it, though you can't see it against United or Chelsea.

"But then we have got Bolton at home and we will live or die on those last seven games. We've got to be up for it more and get some players back [from injury]."

Bruce conceded on Tuesday night that the Liverpool mauling "had been coming". His team survived in the FA Cup after being outplayed at Torquay and Stoke, while West Bromwich Albion had the chances to gain an emphatic victory in the recent derby draw at St Andrew's.

Birmingham's crisis should not detract from the stunning display that took Liverpool into the last four for the first time since 2001. Mikael Forssell, the home striker, complained they were given too much space to exploit.

But Albion received similar room for manoeuvre and scored only once. The high quality of the delivery, especially by Steven Gerrard, turned Tuesday into a benefit night for Peter Crouch and company.

Rafael Benitez must trust the deposed European champions take their new ruthlessness into Saturday's game against Everton.

In the meantime, the Liverpool manager may be wondering how they could rattle up 15 goals in three games after failing to score once in two meetings with an unexceptional Benfica team.

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