David Gold has demanded compensation from Wigan Athletic for the loss of coaching staff that, he believes, ultimately caused Birmingham City to be relegated from the Premier League.
The Birmingham chairman last night claimed it was not just the departure of Steve Bruce that caused so much disruption at St Andrew’s midway through last season but also the subsequent exodus up the M6 which saw three of his back room staff follow him to JJB Stadium. As a result City have reported Wigan to League officials in an attempt to get compensation.
After weeks of wrangling Bruce finally ended his six-year tenure of Birmingham last November and within days was joined by reserve team manager Keith Bertschin. That left Bruce’s assistant Eric Black in charge for one game – a 2-0 home defeat by Portsmouth, before he too was tempted north. Then in January Nigel Spink left Birmingham to become Bruce’s goalkeeping coach. Most recent to leave for Wigan was Will Royall, an academy coach who now has a role with the Athletic first team.
Add to that the fact three players have made the same trip since Bruce went and it is clear Birmingham are vexed by what Gold perceives to be ‘poaching’.
“They took Steve Bruce, OK we got compensation, then Eric Black then our goalkeeping coach, then someone else, then someone else. Then you look around and there is nobody left,” Gold said.
“The Premier League clearly states you are not allowed to do that, you are not allowed to poach other people’s staff. Where does it stop? Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water they took somebody else. What do we want? Compensation.”
Gold maintains that although Alex McLeish came in and managed an almost identical return per game in the second half of the season to that achieved by Bruce in the first, the weeks of uncertainty and ten days between appointments made the difference between Birmingham losing and preserving top flight status.
“Wigan got all the benefits and we got all of the costs,” he said. “They are in the Premier League and we are not. It is all very well saying we got £3?million for Steve but we got relegated because of that.
“We went for weeks and weeks and weeks when we did not win a game. We only had to win one of those and we would still be in the Premier League.”
He also disputes the idea that the £3?million Birmingham received in return for Bruce, of which no more than £1?million went to the Scottish Football Association for McLeish, was sufficient recompense.
“It is not sour grapes. All of these people had to be replaced and most of them have cost us. You either have to pay compensation to a club or to a person to convince them to relocate.
“We got compensation for Steve but that was a deal just for Steve. We set a fee hoping they would go away like Bolton went away,” he said in reference to an enquiry made by Wigan’s neighbours before Gary Megson was appointed.
“We pitched a figure we thought would satisfy Steve but at the same time we hoped it would put Wigan off. It was only for Steve not the rest of the staff.
“While people are saying we got £3?million that does not allow Wigan to rape and pillage for the next 20 years. That is not on.
“I believe Dave Whelan has acted very properly over the Steve Bruce affair. I do not question his integrity at all but is he aware his people have taken several of our staff?”
Whelan has also lured Olivier Kapo, Daniel De Ridder and Wilson Palacios to Wigan, though Birmingham could receive more than £3?million for Kapo if the French international shows form and fitness.
Meanwhile McLeish is working to rebuild his squad following last term’s demotion and has set his sights on former Arsenal youngster Quincy Owusu Abeyie.
The Dutchman is currently with Spartak Moscow having joined from the Gunners in 2006.
McLeish takes his squad to Leicester City this evening where he is expected to field his strongest side.