Gary McAllister fears the prospect of Emile Heskey playing Championship football for Birmingham City next season is extremely unlikely.
The former Coventry City manager,who was attending the opening of Powerleague's five-a-side football centre in Woodlands School and Sports College, Coventry, yesterday, played alongside Heskey at Liverpool from 2000 to 2002, a successful period in which Gerard Houllier's team added five trophies to the club's already bulging cabinet.
Heskey arrived at St Andrew's two years later for #6.25million and the 27-year-old snared 11 goals and a plethora of club awards during his first season. However, last year was paltry by comparison as he scored only five goals and was an integral component of the side that suffered relegation from the Premiership.
Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, has bolstered his forward line with the addition of Cameron Jerome from Cardiff for #3million and the prospect of the duo linking up in tandem next season is potentially destructive.
However, with Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers reportedly interested in Heskey, it appears Bruce will have a fight on his hands to keep the erstwhile England international.
Birmingham's board of directors have stated Bruce can retain all of last year's squad but McAllister believes the dream ticket of Heskey and Jerome is likely to be a non-starter.
"Emile will be a real force next season if he's still at the club," McAllister said. "That's the big question; can they manage to hold on to him? Or, can they afford to hold on to him?
"I watched Birmingham quite a bit last year and whenever I saw them I thought Emile was one of their stronger players. I thought they struggled a wee bit when he wasn't there.
He's got power and pace but, personally, I don't see Emile playing in the Championship."
McAllister, who vacated the Coventry City hot seat in January 2004 after his late wife Denise was diagnosed with cancer, handed over the reins to his assistant manager Eric Black and has subsequently taken a back seat in football to look after his two sons.
He is perfectly happy with that arrangement for the foreseeable future and robust in his defence of the coaching ability of Black, who is Bruce's assistant, after Birmingham's relegation.
Black and Bruce came under heavy scrutiny from supporters last term, as every avenue was explored as a reason for their Premiership demise. However, Black's credentials are comparable with most and McAllister proffered a glowing endorsement of his capabilities.
"I went full on to bring Eric into Coventry to help me when I got the job there," he said. "Eric as much as managed the side because I was still playing and when I had to leave because of family reasons, he took over and did a fantastic job.
"He is one of the best I have ever worked with," added McAllister, whose playing career contained a Division One (top flight) title with Leeds United, a plethora of trophies at Liverpool and a lengthy international career.
"Eric's knowledge of the game and of all the modern things in football ensure he is right on the pulse. He is a fantastic coach. He found it hard, along with Steve Bruce last season, and it has been tough on the pair of them.
"They are very positive guys and they won't look to throw the towel in. They will be looking to bounce back right away and it looks as if they are going to be there to try to get Birmingham back up again."
"Personally, I have no immediate plans to jump back in. I am just staying close to my boys at present."