Birmingham City chairman David Gold has rejected the suggestion that Matthew Upson is certain to leave the club when the transfer window opens at the end of this month.
Despite the fact that Upson, who started his first game for eight months in last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Plymouth Argyle, has just a year-and-a-half left on his contract and has made public his desire to regain his England place, Gold maintained that the defender could change his mind if Blues are doing well enough in the Championship promotion race.
However, he also recognised that City would have little prospect of keeping the player manager Steve Bruce regards as his best, if they slip off the pace.
That makes the next three weeks crucial, with the leaders due to play second-placed Preston North End at St Andrew’s on Saturday after which they visit resurgent Sheffield Wednesday and struggling Southend United before hosting Queens Park Rangers and Luton Town just after Christmas.
By that time, Upson will know whether his current team are likely to take him back to the Premiership or whether he must accede to the overtures of interested suitors such as Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth.
Gold has not given up hope yet: "I do not think it is a fait accompli that he will go in January," the chairman said.
"We will do everything we can to hold on to him and everything we can to take him back up to the Premiership with us if we make it.
"If we are seven points clear at the end of that month and Matthew can see that we are genuine contenders, that will only help us do that. Maybe he will be persuaded to stay on."
But he is aware that Upson — who last week urged Birmingham to maximise his dwindling value to avoid him leaving on a Bosman free transfer — would not even consider remaining if the club fell back into the chasing pack.
"If you are mid-table, you simply cannot hold on to quality players like England internationals; the gap from where we would be to where they want to be would be so huge," he admitted.
"There has been a new contract on the table for some time but I can understand his hesitance. I am guessing that he is keeping his options open because he fears getting locked into a long-term contract at a mediocre club."
Upson could get the opportunity to play with Birmingham’s other ex-England international, David Dunn, as the midfielder continues his recovery from injury.
The former Blackburn Rovers playmaker has not appeared since sustaining a calf injury in the 1-0 victory at Derby County on October 21 but Bruce’s assistant, Eric Black, last night claimed Dunn could return within a fortnight.
"Dunny is still going through a programme and working hard," said Black. "It is only a calf injury, thankfully, which is a different injury to the one he had before.
"It's understandable that his fitness has dropped, but we're working on that. He's in early every day and doing a lot of work in the gym and we should see him available in the next week or two."
The prognosis on Mikael Forssell is not so short-term, though. Black revealed the striker would be out for another two months after undergoing surgery on his knee.
"It's been four weeks since his operation and there's still another eight weeks before he'll be back in amongst it," Black added.
"But I think, in his mind, now he believes the problem has been solved so it's still two months down the line, but at least we now have a date when we hope we can see him back and we hope he will be firing on all cylinders again."
Whether Upson will be there to welcome him, however, remains to be seen.
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