Kenny Cunningham has acclaimed Matthew Upson, his central-defensive partner, as his heir apparent-for the Birmingham City captaincy.

Cunningham, aged 33, has been impressed with the England international defender and believes that Upson will soon be pushing for a regular place in the national team.

However, Cunningham has is concerned over whether Upson will feel he can fulfil his long-term ambitions at international and club level by staying at St Andrew's.

Upson, who was superlative during Birmingham's drab goalless draw against Portsmouth three days ago, has asked to put on hold talks over a new contract until the summer.

He still has three seasons left of his present deal, including a two-year option in the club's favour, but Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, wants Upson to sign a longer deal.

Cunningham, who is also the Republic of Ireland captain, said: "Matthew has been outstanding in the last couple of games but that does not particularly surprise us.

"Everyone at the club is aware what a good player he is. He is an inspirational player for us. As soon as he came here from Arsenal we knew that he was a very special player.

"He is going to be a future captain of this club and he has all the attributes to play at the highest level. I think he is probably the outstanding left- sided central defender in the country.

"England has got a wealth of talent in that department but not a natural left-sided central defender.

"I am sure in the next couple of years Matt will push those people that are ahead of him in the pecking order very strongly for a starting place in the England team.

"Let us just hope Matty can achieve his ambitions with Birmingham. That has got to be a worry for the club as players are very ambitious. It has got to be a worry in terms of all our top-quality players.

"Players are very ambitious. Yes, of course they may be paid very high wages but they are still driven by a desire to succeed.

"Every player wants to play at the very highest level and that means competing for trophies and competing in the Champions League. At the moment in time we have not tasted that at Birmingham.

"The likes of Matty Upson and Emile Heskey will want to see the club progress over the next few years and prove that it is capable of matching their ambitions.

"So I am sure it is a worry - but that is something the club has to deal with like every other club.

"To be fair to the board, they have made some money available to the manager over the last couple of years and we have spent big money on the likes of David Dunn and Emile.

"Hopefully Jermaine Pennant will follow suit and possibly Walter Pandiani and maybe we will be looking at one or two other players as well.

"The package the club offered Craig Bellamy in January was a big one as well. Not many clubs outside the top four or five could match that.

"It is down to the manager to bring in the right type of player that is going to bring the team on."

Birmingham play away to Manchester City tomorrow night and are looking to ensure that their season does not end in anticlimax. The goalless draw against Portsmouth is best forgotten and now the team are only playing for prize money.

Not so Manchester City, whose caretaker manager, Stuart Pearce, says that he needs a win tomorrow to boost his chances of landing the job on a permanent basis.

They have lost just once in the four matches since Pearce replaced Kevin Keegan, winning one and drawing two.

"I have got to raise expectations because I need results to keep me in a job that's for sure," Pearce said.

"I think any City fans that have come to the games - three of them away - and looked at the performances, the heart and the glimpses of good football will be quietly pleased. However, I am a realist and it has to get better than that, starting with Birmingham in midweek."