As if his preparations for the derby match with Aston Villa are not going to be complicated enough, Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce found out yesterday that he will have to do without Nicky Butt.
The Blues midfielder was fined £8,500 and, more presciently, handed a one-match ban for using abusive and/or insulting language to a match official following his dismissal in the Premiership game against Portsmouth last month.
Butt has already served a three-match suspension for his red card at Fratton Park, after he kicked out at Dario Silva in the 1-1 draw, but had that punishment extended by the Football Association at a personal hearing yesterday morning. The extra onematch ban relates to comments, caught on television cameras, he directed towards the referee's assistant as he left the pitch.
That means the 30-yearold will be out of the Villa match on October 16 and will not have played for more than five weeks by the time he returns at the end of this month.
But while Bruce is frustrated at the development he had little complaint with the finding and warned the rest of his squad of the need for circumspection when reacting to officials' decisions.
"We felt that the punishment that we as a club dished out to him and also the threegame suspension that he has served might have been sufficient, but we've had a fair hearing," Bruce said.
"Of course this extra game ban means that he misses the Aston Villa match which is a blow for us. If you look at Nicky's [disciplinary] record over the last five years, it's exemplary.
"He has basically flicked out at an opponent out of frustration but unfortunately we all know the law. So I think it's a harsh lesson to everyone concerned that you have got to keep your thoughts to yourself, button your lip and take your punishment."
However, Professional Footballers' Association deputy chief executive Mick McGuire, who also attended the hearing in Soho Square, was less happy with the ruling.
"We are disappointed," McGuire said. "Despite the concerns to ensure the players respect the referees, this was, in my opinion, a case in which it was not intimidatory or threatening in any way.
"In line with the directives given at the start of the season to all officials, any act which is born out of frustration and does not fall into the category of being intimidatory or threatening - and this was an act of frustration, a comment made to an assistant probably 40 yards away - the commission then have the latitude and discretion to deem that the sending off was sufficient.
"It is true to say they also had the latitude for a threegame ban, and on the face of that, one game may seem alright."
McGuire, though, believes Butt's good disciplinary record in the past meant a warning, rather than a further ban, would have been enough.
"His record is phenomenal - he had been sent off once in the last five years, and only had around 20 cautions," said McGuire.
"Taking all factors into account, I would have hoped the commission would have deemed a warning to be a sufficient punishment, bearing in mind he has already missed three games."
Butt's absence against Villa can be ill-afforded with Birmingham decimated through injuries in the midfield department.
Also absent from that game through suspension will be captain and central defender Kenny Cunningham, after his red card for a professional foul in Sunday's 1-0 defeat by Arsenal at Highbury.
The Irishman pulled down Freddie Ljungberg in the 24th minute and became the third Blues player to be dismissed in consecutive matches following Neil Kilkenny against Liverpool and Butt ' s misdemeanour on the South Coast.
Meanwhile, Birmingham have been linked with Wycombe Wanderers striker Nathan Tyson who has scored 11 goals in just 12 League Two games.
Wanderers manager John Gorman confirmed Bruce is interested is interested in the 23-year-old and had him watched in Wycombe's last match.