Whelan points finger at Birmingham for delaying Bruce's Wigan move
The acrimony surrounding Steve Bruce's departure from Birmingham City to Wigan Athletic continued to the bitter end yesterday as the Latics' chairman, Dave Whelan, blamed the delay on an oversight from City's chief executive Karren Brady.
Whelan suggested that Brady had "forgotten" that an advance image rights payment had been repayable to City by Bruce before he left. Brady is known to have has taken personal responsibility for the payments dispute which halted Bruce's plans to sign this week. City issued a rebuttal of Whelan's comments yesterday and insisted he was "not actually aware of the facts". Birmingham stated: "It is categorically denied that Karren Brady or anyone at Birmingham City FC 'forgot' that there was a repayment of an advance of image rights due to [the club]. It was unequivocal that this money was returnable in full to [the club] and Steve Bruce and Birmingham City was well aware of this."
The club then moved to scotch comments from Paul Jewell that he had been approached by "someone" at St Andrews about the manager's job.
Bruce is understood to have owed Birmingham somewhere in the region of £250,000 when advance wages paid to him are taken into account, but the return of this money has cleared the way for him to be unveiled at the JJB on Monday afternoon. The resolution came too late for him to take training yesterday and he will not be taking up the reins for today's match – but since it is a visit to Arsenal, he can be forgiven for being glad of the fact. He will watch from the directors' box at the Emirates.
Bruce is expected to be handed in the region of £15m to strengthen the squad and lift the club clear of the relegation zone. Whelan said of him yesterday: "He is the man who will not only keep this club in the Premier League this season but continue the work of Paul Jewell and Chris Hutchings in building a legacy for the future. I want Steve to become a Wigan legend. I think he is going to be a huge success at Wigan. Like myself he believes in hard work first and foremost. Make no mistake, we have got ourselves a top, top man."
Bruce's unavailability means caretaker manager Frank Barlow will be at the helm today, welcoming back Emile Heskey for the first time since September as the Latics bid to stem a run of seven consecutive defeats. The spat between the clubs may persist for some time yet. Whelan is also keen to bring Bruce's assistant at St Andrews, Eric Black, to the JJB, despite Black being appointed as the Blues' caretaker-manager yesterday.
* The Blackburn manager Mark Hughes has signed a new contract which will keep him at Ewood Park until at least June 2010.