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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 15:07 GMT
Birmingham going for Gold

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Birmingham City chairman David Gold can be forgiven for enjoying a moment of silent satisfaction as they head the frantic race for a Premiership place after a crucial win against Leeds.

David Gold
Birmingham chairman David Gold has his sights on the Premiership

Gold has had a turbulent 12 months that would have tested the resilience of most men operating at English football's sharp end.

He has suffered the distress of relegation from the top flight, calls for boss Steve Bruce's sacking after a poor start in the Championship, the reluctant sale of his most high-profile player Matthew Upson that upset his manager, and a very public spat between co-owner David Sullivan and supporters.

But Gold and Sullivan stood by their man, kept their nerve and now enter the final furlong of the closest Championship chase in years in prime position.

Here Gold talks BBC through the trials and tribulations of managing the huge weight of expectation at Birmingham, and of their plans should they secure a Premiership future.


It's extremely exciting to be back at the top of the table. We have been through some ups and downs over the last few months, and returning to the top of the table is a good feeling and bodes well for our last 12 games.

I do wonder, though, where all this talk of turbulence comes from. We have had reports of the club being in crisis and troubled times, but we are all together, pulling together.


We have this single-minded determination to return to the Premiership, which runs through the fans, board, manager and players, and I have to say that we are not yet playing at our best even though we are top of the table.

David Sullivan is fine. We chatted after our game against Leeds. We were top of the table and there were lots of smiles in the boardroom.


The Matthew Upson situation was very difficult in that we were confronted, very close to the end of the transfer window, where we suddenly discovered a Fifa rule meant that Matthew could leave at the end of the season for less than 1m.

We had an offer on the table from West Ham of 7.5m. That meant we were going to pay 6.5m for 15 or 16 games.

The finances didn't stack up. A major factor was that it was very clear Matthew wanted to leave the club and we would have found it difficult to miss the opportunity to maximise his value on the basis he didn't want to play for Birmingham City.

Matthew Upson
Matthew Upson made it clear he wanted to leave Birmingham

It would have been very difficult to watch Matthew for those last 15 or 16 games knowing he didn't want to wear the blue shirt, knowing he didn't want to play for Birmingham, knowing he wanted to be elsewhere.

Sometimes boards have to take decisions. I wish they were all easy or popular, but I'm afraid that's life.

We believe we have made a decision in the very best interests of the football club as a whole.

You could have made a case if Matthew had said maybe he would sign a new contract if we got promoted. If he had said he was committed, then you are in a better position to turn down offers from other clubs, but you must add up all these things.

For the four years he was here Matthew was the consummate professional, outstanding, he's won England caps. He went through some very tough times, but you could never fault his attitude, determination and contribution to Birmingham, but nothing is for ever.

Will he regret that? I don't know. You would have to ask him.

As we speak it could be that Birmingham may win the Championship or gain promotion into the Premiership, and there is every possibility, every likelihood, that West Ham will be relegated.

The odds on West Ham being relegated, as we speak, are very strong.


The relationship between Steve Bruce and the board has been very, very strong throughout.

We realised we were going through a difficult time, culminating in the home defeat against Norwich City that left us all very depressed and disappointed.

But there were reasons. There were injuries, a few problems that had to be dealt with, and we felt Steve Bruce was the man to deal with them.

We had brought a lot of new players in, and that was one of the major issues as well. We had to find the best formula.

Steve Bruce
Steve Bruce has come through a test of character

There were massive changes in personnel at the football club, as there always is when you are relegated from the Premiership to the Championship.

It is never easy, as many, many clubs have found. This can have a major effect and it can be many years before they are addressed correctly.

Steve was going through some poor results for six or seven games but the man hadn't changed.

He was still the same Steve Bruce, still determined, still ambitious. Pride also plays a major part and Steve's pride and determination to return Birmingham to the Premiership was a major factor.


The Championship is a truly amazing division. A great spectacle and such a close race, but obviously we would like to go straight back up.

The parachute payments are the key.

You have two years, and once they pass - as clubs like Norwich and Ipswich have found - it becomes extremely difficult because you are competing against clubs that have been relegated, that have got Premiership players, and that have got financial muscle.

All clubs will tell you it is vital to get back into the Premiership as early as possible, and certainly within those two years.

Using crude, approximate figures, your turnover increases from 17m to 50m, which is a dramatic rise, but invariably the vast majority goes to agents and players.

I think one of the most important things about returning to the Premiership is not the money, it is the pride for the fans, players, manager and board.


If we get up, we will sit down and review the situation, listen to Steve Bruce, and then come to a decision depending on which players are available.

What we have done this time is that we have bought players we believe are good enough to win the division, then if we gain promotion we hope the vast majority of those players will be capable of sustaining their place in the Premiership.

I'm not naive enough to believe we won't have to buy any players if we go up and we will strengthen our squad. We will bring in additional quality and learn lessons from clubs like Reading, who have done a marvellous job under John Madejski and Steve Coppell.

Steve Coppell
Gold is full of praise for the approach of Coppell and Reading

It is also important we don't throw any dice.

What you have to is say we are going to be prudent, careful, sensible, but at the same time have a contingency plan so funds are available for the transfer window.

You can bring in so many players that you can disrupt the whole process. I think what is important is that you have a contingency so you can re-assess the situation in January.

We experienced this last time we were in the Premiership. Injuries plagued us and we really didn't have sufficient funds to do more in the window.


That will depend on Arsenal's position. I am sure they won't make any decisions until the campaign is over, but we will obviously keep a watching brief.


It was extremely difficult facing relegation week in week out last season, losing more games than you are winning. We are winning more and that is pleasing.

There are the same tensions, but we are scoring more goals and winning more points and it is exciting to be there or thereabouts in which the reward is a return to the Premiership, rather than last year, which was like having the Sword of Damocles hanging over us.

Gold backs ticket-price reduction
28 Feb 07 |  Birmingham City
Bruce warning against complacency
28 Feb 07 |  Birmingham City
Bruce blasts boo-boys after win
11 Feb 07 |  Birmingham City
Sullivan makes Blues transfer vow
18 Feb 07 |  Birmingham City
West Ham capture Upson from Blues
31 Jan 07 |  Birmingham City


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