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Europa League round of 16 draw

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By ESPN Staff

Birmingham chairman Sullivan apologises for outburst

Birmingham chairman David Sullivan has apologised to his players following his outburst questioning their commitment to the club.

Following last month's thrashing to Liverpool, Sullivan spoke of his resentment towards footballers and how his players were not doing enough for their wages.

His comments appeared to have the desired effect as Birmingham showed signs of improvement against Manchester United, before holding champions Chelsea to a goalless draw at the weekend and then defeating Bolton.

Four points from their last two games has lifted Steve Bruce's men out of the relegation zone for the first time in six months, with players ready to draw a line under the controversy surrounding Sullivan's comments.

'Obviously the chairman has taken the opportunity to air his views in public recently,' said skipper Kenny Cunningham.

'As a result I took the opportunity to phone the chairman and voice my concerns about a number of issues touched upon in his interview.

'We had a very frank and honest exchange of views which concluded with the chairman asking me to pass on his apologies to the players for any offence he had caused them indirectly with his comments and as far as I'm concerned that's the matter closed.

'We know everybody is going to have their say, from fans to the media, but to a certain extent we have to cut ourselves off from that and focus on the things we can affect.'

Bruce was pleased how his players have answered 'certain people' after their 7-0 thrashing against Liverpool.

'We've been totally examined over the last couple of weeks,' Bruce said. 'Two weeks ago you have the worst footballing night of your life and what you look for is a response from your players, to answer certain people and make sure they had their pride back restored.

'To be fair to them against Bolton, Chelsea and at times at Manchester, they've certainly got the bit between their teeth at the right time.'

Jiri Jarosik, who is at the club on a loan deal from Chelsea, struck the winner against Bolton with nine minutes remaining in the first half, his spectacular drive from 25 yards the only goal of the game.

The 28-year-old Czech Republic international has been linked with a move to German side Borussia Dortmund as a replacement if playmaker Tomas Rosicky departs, although he could also remain at Birmingham if they stay up.

'He's two-footed and you wouldn't know which foot was stronger,' said boss Bruce. 'We've seen him before score a couple like that, but that was his most important that's for sure.'

Jarosik had to play deeper than usual against Bolton as Nicky Butt and Stephen Clemence limped off injured in the first half, with Bruce now awaiting scan results on the pair.

The defeat was Bolton's third in succession, denting their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

'We've lost three games, all of them by the odd goal, it's really hit us hard at the moment and I just hope it does not affect our confidence too much,' said boss Sam Allardyce.

'We've got two very difficult games - Liverpool and Chelsea - so we've made life very difficult for ourselves.

'If we wanted to stay on the brink of sixth and upwards, we should have got something from these games we're catching up on. We've put that in jeopardy now.'