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Not striking since 2004
Oct 24, 2003
This guys a legend. Taken from the Observer:

Forget Bruce, trouble starts with true blue Sullivan

David Sullivan doesn't like his players. 'They're on £20-30,000 a week and they're not earning it; it makes you resentful,' he says, 'I've reached the stage where I don't like footballers.' Fair enough. Respect, likeability, decency - it all matters. Birmingham's players should look at David: £575m made out of open-leg porn mags, chatlines, sex dolls, an ISP offering 'furry f%&kers' and 'anal frenzy', movies like Hellcats: Mud Wrestling, Boys and Girls Together and Star Sex, all run from an £18m mansion in Essex. What's not to like about that?

It's been a defining couple of weeks for Sullivan. Yes, he has a point about players, and as Birmingham co-owner he has a right to say what he likes. But doing it like this? With nine games to play, this guy really thought it's a good idea to isolate and undermine his manager and humiliate his squad in public. What a contribution.

Last week I was asked by the press about Sullivan and his club. The issues I've had with them in the past six years are well documented, so I gave them a few throw-away lines, a few jokes - which they spun up and turned into clever Sun headlines like 'I'd like to beat Sullivan up'. It detracted from the points about his style and Birmingham's ownership which I think are worth making. It's not about bitterness, or whatever else he'll throw back at me. The way they work gets to the heart of what running a club is about.

Assessing an ownership style comes down to three key factors: motivation, mentality and the way you do business.

On the simplest level, Birmingham's three owners - the Gold brothers and Sullivan - are caricatures. Operators, not fans. They used to own part of West Ham, and Sullivan looked at Cardiff, Watford, Bradford, Leeds and Spurs before Birmingham. His ambition is neatly split: half on his Birmingham Village casino plan, and half on leaving. He'd like to own a London club instead 'because of the travelling from Essex - I'm fed up with it'.

Second, the mentality. If I see another David Gold interview on the poor East End Jewish boy done good I'll impale myself on one of his dildos. These guys are desperately pleased with themselves, they're in it for the profile and they don't do criticism. In 2001, when a handful of fans reacted to Sullivan sacking Trevor Francis by pasting his face on a poster of Osama Bin Laden with the tagline: 'Wanted Dead or Alive - Ivor Bin Sulking - Lives in a bunker somewhere in Essex. Sick of Blues fans, sick of criticism and sick of Trevor Francis', Sullivan reacted like this: 'I'm fed up with them slaughtering me... I can do without the grief.' He tried to sell, couldn't find a buyer and five years later he's still there.

Third - their business ethic. I've had enough dealings with them to fill the paper, but here's the most recent. Before our game against Birmingham last season, Sullivan came over to me and said: 'Simon my boy, Simon - we know what you lot are like with bad decisions, we don't want any bad decisions' - referring to Andy Johnson's spurious 'diving' image. So 12 months later, imagine my surprise when Sullivan told the press I'd rejected his £6.5m bid for Johnson. There was no bid, no approach, no inquiry, nothing. Sullivan misled the press and his public in an attempt to unsettle my player, and to make himself and Birmingham look ambitious.

All of this stuff casts some light on Sullivan's 'I don't like players' speech. Yes, I can empathise with his frustrations: they'd just been beaten 7-0. The fact that I was dancing round the room laughing doesn't mean I can't understand the exasperation. But what was he looking to achieve by letting it all out publicly? Speaking out to disassociate his image from the humiliation, to court popularity - whatever it was - it's putting your ego ahead of your club.

And it's all so bizarrely self-defeating. I'm not saying I'm perfect, that I'm a self-effacing wallflower, but being a chairman or owner just isn't hard when it comes to situations like this. It's about thinking things through, showing some responsibility and doing what's right for the club. Fine, Sullivan may think Mario Melchiot is a waster, undermining his casino plans and making him look bad, but what good does it do to say so?

When Palace lost 9-0 to Liverpool in 1989, Ron Noades didn't publicly undermine the manager or players: they regrouped, pulled together and went on to beat Liverpool 4-3 in the FA Cup semi-final. There's a lesson hidden in there somewhere. When we went down last season, I didn't publicly spit my dummy, because where does turning against your own side get you? Who does it help?

What Bruce and Birmingham needed two weeks ago and still need now is a lift, a feeling of inclusion. Bruce hasn't become a bad manager in four years and lost his tactics, but his confidence is on the floor. What he didn't need was to see his employer humiliating his squad and dragging the mood down another level. But now that it's out there, it's probably too late to fix. Sullivan's failure to back Bruce in January's transfer window - having supported him in every window before this season - pointed to a loss of faith in his manager; these comments confirm a loss of respect, too. And there's no way back from that.

Six years ago I made a similar mistake: I went into our dressing room after a home defeat to Grimsby to bawl out the squad, mistakenly believing I was supporting the manager. It made me feel better, but was totally counterproductive: it undermined Alan Smith and created more bad feeling. I've never done it since. It comes down to the one golden rule in managing managers: if you feel you need to intervene - in the dressing room or in the papers - you've already let it go too far.

So what will Birmingham's next seven games bring? I don't wish relegation on any team (apart from Charlton) and part of me hopes Bruce turns this round, throws it back in Sullivan's face. Yesterday's draw was a start. But if he fails, then at least he and everyone else will have half-decent excuses - Bruce the injuries and losing Robbie Savage, his players the lack of a settled side or system. But what can Sullivan honestly say for himself? That he did his best in the last few months to lead the club, to boost morale and to drive things forward?

I can't tell Birmingham fans what to think, and nor should I. But surely it's time to forget that the current owners saved the club in 1993, stop being grateful and look at how they're running it now. That's how I want to be judged. We're the people who set the salaries, make appointments, control club policy, do club business: we're the ones who deserve the scrutiny. So why not ask more questions of Sullivan, why not think him through? Doesn't it hurt that the man who refused to back Bruce in the transfer window because 'to gamble and lose would mean bankruptcy for the club' is sitting on half a billion pounds of masturbation money?

Wasted Lives

It's four months since my FA-dubbed 'improper' column on refereeing. My appeal against the £10,000 fine was heard last month by an independent panel, well chaired by Charles Hollander QC. There's no result yet, but quality time with an FA compliance officer is always a treat. This one was Mark Knowles - looked like Ratso from Midnight Cowboy.

Unresponsive and dead-eyed, Knowles was the only one in the room who wouldn't engage. Instead, he tried his 'prosecuting attorney' pitch and put up some trademark FA questioning. Among the best was this: 'Did I think a national newspaper was the right forum to air such views?' I told him that if I didn't think that, I probably wouldn't have written the column. He looked blank.

We also asked why the FA felt it was so wrong to air public-interest issues in a newspaper and what they would have done had the piece been more tightly focused? If it had been about a specific bung, naming names, backed by legally tight evidence - and I'd written about it in The Observer before filing a formal report to the FA. Would that also be 'improper conduct'? Yes, he said. They'd charge me. I'll repeat that: they'd charge me.

It comes down to job description: compliance officers shouldn't be meter maids for the game, chalking off technical infringements. They should be there to attack issues that matter.

Whatever the verdict, the FA know my threat of legal action is still there: if they don't take measures to withdraw the slur on my integrity, I will. And I'll continue to press for this backward, pointless system to change. Ratso, Barry Bright and their pals may not like to think about it at night, but they're wasting their lives. Chasing petty causes like this has nothing to do with the evolution of the game.

The fee for Simon Jordan's Observer articles will be given to the Christopher's Children's Hospice, Guildford, Surrey