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Warnock's comments add to Birmingham City fans' conspiracy fears

Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock’s public belief that Sheffield United have the best squad in the Championship won’t hand Birmingham City a crumb of comfort.

Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock’s public belief that Sheffield United have the best squad in the Championship won’t hand Birmingham City a crumb of comfort.

Nor will the outspoken Yorkshireman’s admittance that if the Blades are at their best this Sunday then they will leave Selhurst Park with all three points, a haul that could secure automatic promotion ahead of Birmingham.

The Blues will be hoping that Warnock is just merely entering into a round of mind games with his forthcoming opponents’ manager, and former right-hand man, Kevin Blackwell.

Despite having their destiny in their own hands this weekend, Birmingham will be keeping one eye on Sunday’s developments in south London.

The equation is simple: If Birmingham beat Reading at the Madejski Stadium – automatic promotion will be theirs.

However, a draw in Berkshire would have Alex McLeish’s side nervously looking over their shoulder in the hope that Crystal Palace would have denied Sheffield United maximum points.

Given Warnock’s links to the red and white half of the Steel City – a boyhood fan and the last manager to lead them into the Premier League – it’s easy to see why the St Andrew’s conspiracy theorists are getting hot under the collar.

Never one to shy away from publicity, Warnock has spoken for the first time about Sunday’s potential twist and turns and his comments will spark mixed emotions among paranoid Birmingham fans.

There is the professional defiance.

“It doesn’t matter who we are playing, I want to win every game,” said Warnock. “Kevin wouldn’t accept any favours, anyway, because he will believe – as I have done all season – that he has the best squad in the Championship and they should be going up automatically.

“I honestly did not think it would come down to this game as I thought Sheffield United would be up by now. They have a better squad than Wolves so all credit to Mick McCarthy because his squad is not as good as Sheffield United’s.”

Then there is the affection for his former club and the concerning hint at a weakened Palace line-up.

“I was hoping they would be up by now but it is not to be,” added Warnock, who quit his ‘dream job’ at Bramall Lane after relegation from the top flight in the wake of the Carlos Tevez-West Ham United transfer saga.

“They have had a couple of stumbles recently against Nottingham Forest and Burnley so it is now all down to the final day.

“If Sheffield United bring their best game to the table (on Sunday) then they will beat us. We are without a few of our key players as I allowed the likes of Shaun Derry and Sean Scannell to undergo operations to make sure they are ready for the start of next season.

“It means we have had to give a few more kids a chance, though it will be difficult to do that against Sheffield United.”

Meanwhile, Birmingham’s 17-year-old midfield prodigy Jordon Mutch has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the club, his first professional contract.

A one-year professional contract has also been offered to 18-year-old defender Jacob Rowe.

However, fellow academy hopefuls Robert Gradwell, Dean Lyness, Jack Rutter, Jamie Sheldon and Shaun Timmins have all been told their futures lie elsewhere.

 

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