Steve Bruce’s preparations for the tomorrow night’s Coca-Cola Championship trip to Coventry City have been dealt a hammer blow with the news that Damien Johnson has fractured his jaw.
Birmingham City’s manager was highly critical of the challenge from Paul Robinson during the 2-0 derby victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday that led to Johnson’s injury.
The left back was duly dismissed and has since protested his innocence but that will cut no ice with Bruce. His ubiquitous midfielder is set to see a specialist today to ascertain whether or not he will need an operation.
That was the only blip on another excellent day at the office for Birmingham. The pressure hanging over Bruce’s head after their home defeat against Norwich City was immense but his side has responded with three consecutive victories.
None will have pleased Bruce more than this as it proved they are capable of competing at the business end of the table and coping with the mammoth expectation of playing at St Andrew’s. But, more importantly for Bruce, it offered unequivocal proof that his dressing room is still firmly behind him.
"You could see today," he confirmed. "Any of them could have jacked it in and I knew then I would have got the sack.
"I had brought most of them here, ten of them in the summer. I knew they were shocked by the response of what happened after Norwich, maybe it was the low point but is a crisis round the corner again?
"You have seen them produce a performance against West Brom and they will go up and down because they are young.
"If a new manager had taken over and if they had gone up straight away within six months and he had kept them in the Premiership for three years, he’d be carried round shoulder high.
"That’s what’s been done and I’m determined to try and do it again," added a bombastic Bruce.
He has been outspoken during the last fortnight over what he feels is the lack of foresight shown by many football clubs regarding mangers. The average shelf life seems to be shrinking on an annual basis and Bruce is adamant the policy adopted by nervous chairman is a recipe for disaster.
"You look at teams like Leeds United; seven managers in four years, Derby County - nine managers in five years, it’s doesn’t do you any good and history tells you that," lamented Bruce.
"If we go to Coventry City and we get beat and drift down to sixth or seventh again, it’s crisis time. That’s how stupid it is.
"I think you can see by the attitude and the application of the players that they are right behind each other.
"The difficult thing when you bring them all in is getting used to the area, getting that spirit that we had before, getting that togetherness, team energy and team ethic - that’s coming. A lot of the people don’t know each other.
"The most important thing was the way we won the game. There has been a few things said, that they (players) don’t care.
"You could see today they do as the performances of (Fabrice) Muamba, (Stephen) Clemence, Johnson and (Gary) McSheffrey were all terrific.
"There were times when we had to hang on a little bit because West Bromwich Albion are a good team, but thankfully we got the result."
"I’m more pleased for the people that work for me, my staff, because we all know that if a manager goes, the new broom usually sweeps clean."
Bruce also praised the performance of his goal hero McSheffrey and took a backhanded swipe at the spin doctors enveloping football.
He praised his striker’s energetic approach and insisted he would be a major asset to the club for years to come. Bruce also set the record straight regarding the transfer fee Birmingham paid for McSheffrey, despite what was emanating from their local rivals down the A45 at the Ricoh Arena.
"I’ve heard all this nonsense in the media that we paid #4million for him," said Bruce dismissively. "We paid #2.3m, which is still a lot of money for a Championship striker but you could see why I wanted to bring him in because he will be a crowd hero here because of the way he plays the game.
"He’s got great energy, He’s a good finisher and he’s got a bright future. "I always knew he could play through the middle of the park as well and I thought he was terrific up front with (Nicklas) Bendtner for the last half-hour."