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Old 12th May 2008, 11:26   #1
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Default Sullivan and Gold on brink after venom of Blues fan protests

Sullivan and Gold on brink after venom of Blues fan protests

Stuart James at St Andrew's
The Guardian,
Monday May 12 2008

Relegation appeared almost a side issue for Birmingham City last night as David Sullivan, the club's plc chairman, claimed he would "move on to another club" after he was subjected to verbal abuse from a section of home supporters on an extraordinary day at St Andrew's. David Gold, Birmingham's co-owner, also suggested he was considering resigning in the wake of scenes that he described as "venomous" after fans sought to confront the St Andrew's board.

Frustrations boiled over when it became apparent that Reading were winning convincingly at Pride Park, meaning Birmingham would not salvage their Premier League status despite emphatically defeating Blackburn. Chants of "Sack the board" emanated from the Tilton Road End before a number of Birmingham fans located immediately in front of the directors' box turned on the club's hierarchy to vent their anger. Sullivan and Gold were furious.

"These people don't know anything about business and nothing about football," said Sullivan, who was watching the game with his two younger sons, David Jr and Jack. "I have had enough. I don't want to be here next season. All those who want to buy [Birmingham] can buy it like Ebbsfleet. Please buy me out David [Gold]. There's five or six clubs out there who would welcome me with open arms. It's time to move on to a new club."

Gold claimed he would also leave if he thought that the "majority" of fans were behind the unrest. "I'm a bit stressed by the reaction of the fans. I understand the disappointment of relegation," he said. "Together we have been there on a number of occasions, going back to Barry Fry getting us relegated. But never, in all the time I have been at the football club, have I seen a large section of fans being abusive. Is it 100, is it 1,000 or is it the majority? Because if it's the majority I will be left with no alternative but to resign as chairman of the football club."

Regarding the fans that hurled abuse at the Birmingham board, Gold added: "It was a verbal attack. You could see the hatred in their eyes. You could almost excuse the chants of 'Board out' because of their frustration, and they are getting rid of that. If I wasn't chairman, I would probably be joining them. But, of course, what I wouldn't be joining in is the venomous verbal attack. I couldn't quote a single word. You don't have to because you could see the hatred in their eyes as they came towards the board and two young children."

Gold admitted that he understood some of the supporters' grievances, with the decision to sell a 29.9% stake to Carson Yeung, the Hong Kong-based businessman who failed to complete a takeover but did much to unsettle the club on and off the field, now recognised as a mistake. "It should have been a takeover bid done and dusted in a short space of time," added Gold, who conceded Steve Bruce would probably have stayed but for Yeung's involvement.

Instead Bruce departed for Wigan and Alex McLeish, who took over at the end of November, has been unable to arrest the slide towards the Championship for the second time in three seasons. "We have lost out by a point," lamented the Birmingham manager. "The players have punched above their weight many times this season, and they did it again today. People ask if I could have kept us up had I been here for the whole season? But that is just conjecture.

"We can look back at games and rue this one and rue that one. Unfortunately 24 points from 24 games [McLeish's record] which would normally be Premier League form, just wasn't enough. It wasn't to be and it's no disgrace."

There was certainly no disgrace in Birmingham's performance here. This was a display full of conviction and belief as they tore into Blackburn. Having come on to the field to a wall of noise, McLeish's players responded and might have gone ahead in the third minute when Mauro Zarate, a late replacement for James McFadden, who was injured in the warm-up, speared an angled drive inches wide after swapping passes with Olivier Kapo.

It was soon apparent that such enterprising attacking play was not required to prise a breakthrough. Out of position following a quickly taken free-kick - something they would later complain about - the Blackburn defence made the mistake of retreating as David Murphy strolled forward in the space that opened up in front of him. One swing of the left boot and Birmingham, aided by Brad Friedel's poor attempt to save, were beginning to dream.

A reality check followed four minutes after the break when Morten Gamst Pedersen tapped home after Maik Taylor had twice saved splendidly from Jason Roberts. At that point, with Reading comfortably in front, Birmingham might have expected to implode but, to their credit, McLeish's players rallied. Cameron Jerome, who is believed to have tried to leave the ground before he was recalled following McFadden's injury, made up for an embarrassing miss when he scored twice late on before Fabrice Muamba headed beyond Friedel. Not that anyone was talking about the goals.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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