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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 13:24 GMT
Robbie Savage - saint or sinner?
By Stuart Roach

There are two sides to every story, but never more so than when Robbie Savage is involved.

Robbie Savage celebrates with his Birmingham team-mates
Savage is loved by team-mates, reviled by his rivals

The controversial midfielder was in the thick of the action on Monday as his Birmingham City side completed a Midlands derby double over rivals Aston Villa.

Most notably, Savage was involved in a clash with Dion Dublin which came to a violent climax when the former England striker was sent off for head-butting the Blues player.

And while Savage was clearly the victim on that occasion, Dublin made a pointed reference to the exchange of words which had provoked his response.

The incident brought a tense game to the boil and Savage was once again the brightest flame around the melting pot.

The tension had already spilled over by the time the Welsh international acted as peacemaker, turning to the Blues fans with a "calm-down" gesture.

And he was finally substituted for his own safety after being confronted by an angry Villa fan in the middle of the pitch.

The series of events at Villa Park perfectly illustrated Savage's controversial career, which has seen incident after incident offset by mitigating circumstances.

Whether you regard Savage as a saint or a sinner depends largely on which side of the fence you are watching from.

He has a label as a troublemaker but can point to the fact that he has never been sent off in his nine-year professional career.

Ten bookings this season and 20 last term - but never a red.

Birmingham midfielder Robbie Savage
Savage protects himself after being substituted against Villa
His own fans love him and his manager, Steve Bruce, insists that many of those bookings came as a result of Savage's reputation going before him.

That image is one forged in the heated surroundings of the 1999 Worthington Cup final at Wembley, when Spurs fans and players accused Savage of getting Justin Edinburgh sent off.

West Ham fans then blamed him for a similar situation surrounding Igor Stimac and Arsenal supporters jumped on the bandwagon following an ugly challenge on Kanu.

And Savage was never going to win any London popularity contests after allegedly labelling Chelsea fans 'a bunch of bottlers'.

Yet, when his playing career comes to an end, Savage could do worse than to train as a lawyer, such is his use of mitigation.

When he was fined 10,000 by the Football Association for using referee Graham Poll's toilet during half-time, Savage was quick to blame an upset stomach - though his claims did not wash with the FA.

And even when his Birmingham career began with a two-match ban after picking up a suspension in his last match for Leicester, Savage cited his passion for the game.

He explained: "Leicester were already relegated and I was on 14 bookings so I could have said I didn't want to risk playing.

"I decided to play and give it my all and that's me. I love football and I will carry on giving 150%."

Few would complain about the 100% that Savage regularly delivers - it's what the extra 50% may contain that is of concern.




BIRMINGHAM CITY


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