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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 11, 2006

Departing Cunningham slams 'soulless' Blues

Captain Kenny Cunningham ended his four-year Birmingham career by launching a stinging attack on the relegated club's board and manager Steve Bruce.

The former Republic of Ireland captain is out of contract and though he was thought to have been discussing an extension with the West Midlands side, his comments have sounded the death knell to his Blues career.

Co-owner David Sullivan says he is 'hurt' by Cunningham's remarks which included criticism of the club president and fellow owners David and Ralph Gold.

Cunningham was particularly unhappy with Bruce's tactics, training techniques and the make-up of the squad which ultimately failed to avoid relegation to the Coca-Cola Championship.

Centre-half Cunningham, 34, has labelled Blues as 'like a stiff corpse' with 'no heartbeat' and 'no soul'.

The passionate defender has slammed the club for starting the season with only three strikers and criticised Bruce for tactical decisions and his recent revelations that two players - who he would not name - refused to play against Bolton on Sunday.

'I was very surprised when I read the articles, in particular the manager's comments,' Cunningham said.

'They sounded a bit conflicting. On one hand he was saying that players didn't want to play for the football club and on the other he wasn't going to name them because he wanted to offer them some protection.

'By not naming the individual players he has, indirectly, put a big question mark over the integrity of every injured player, myself included, who didn't travel to Bolton.'

He told the Birmingham Post: 'A huge number of people, including the manager, agreed that man for man we were as talented as any team in the Premiership, apart from the top five and I think there is a lot of truth to it.

'Man for man we could hold our own against the likes of Blackburn, Bolton, and West Ham. If you agree with that statement then you have to find a reason why we finished up to 30 points behind those clubs.

'People might accuse the attitude and application of the players - that's a non-starter. I have been in that environment working alongside those players and I know the nucleus of that team is as professional and as conscientious as any I have ever played with during my career,' he said.

'These accusations have hurt the players, but I am in a position now to say that wasn't the case. There was a real desire and motivation among the players to make that season a success.

'Unfortunately, and I take no pleasure in saying this, the reason was due to a lack of organisation, preparation and attention to detail at the football club.

'The only person who must take responsibility for that is the manager.'

Cunningham slammed Bruce's match preparations and training sessions.

'The performance of the team on Saturday is directly influenced by what goes on and off the training pitch for the six days prior to that game. That is a fact.

'For me, our preparation was nowhere near good enough.

'We had crisis meetings throughout the season as every team does. The manager asked for honest opinions from players as to how we could improve and the message from the players every time was the same.

'`We need to prepare better for the games on a Saturday'. `We are not as prepared and organised as we should be'. `We need to use our time on the training pitch more productively'.

'There has been a suggestion this season that we had been relegated because we were the unluckiest team ever in Premiership history.

'If you by into that mode of thinking you are burying your head into the sand and this club will never progress.

'In relation to the injury list at this football club, luck does play a part to a small degree.

'I stress, to a very small degree. What people should be talking about and aren't, is the area of injury prevention at a football club.

'Fans will look at players and immediately assume 'he's not trying'. In my opinion, what you are seeing is a player on the football pitch very disillusioned and very dispirited.'

Former Millwall and Wimbledon defender Cunningham believes the lack of spirit at the club compared to those where he started his career was significant.

'Birmingham seems like a stiff corpse in comparison to that. It has no heartbeat and more worryingly, no soul.

'I fear that while things remain the same the fans and players will never experience the kind of success, which I feel they deserve.'

Cunningham paid tribute to the club's supporters and his team-mates but believes the owners do not have the same commitment as the likes of Jack Walker and Steve Gibson, who bankrolled their local clubs Blackburn and Middlesbrough.

Young defender Marcos Painter, meanwhile, has agreed terms for a new three-year contract with the club having broken into the first team this season.

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