Birmingham keen to keep hold of prize assets

May 25, 2006

David Gold has insisted Birmingham do not have to sell striker Emile Heskey - reported to be a £3.5million target for Blackburn - or winger Jermaine Pennant.

The Blues chairman, however, pledged any money brought in from the possible sale of the duo would be used for strengthening a squad which has already off-loaded nine players since being relegated from the Premiership.

Pennant was one of City's best players last season but Heskey, signed from Liverpool in the summer of 2004, managed just four top-flight goals in 2005-2006.

Gold believes the pair would play a major role in helping Birmingham climb out of the Championship and hopes manager Steve Bruce can persuade them to stay at St Andrews.

He said: ``Imagine the impact the likes of Emile Heskey, Jermaine Pennant, Mikael Forssell and a fit David Dunn would have as an attacking force for us next season?

``We have let players go and four or five will be coming in but do not have to sell people like Emile and Jermaine. Obviously, they would prefer to stay in the Premiership. That's where we would prefer to be.

``We hope no-one comes in for them but if they do and we sell them, then the money can be used for strengthening.

``Hopefully Steve Bruce, who has shown before he has strong persuasive powers in getting people like Christophe Dugarry and Chris Sutton here, will be able to convince them they can achieve that aim by remaining at Birmingham and getting us promoted.''

Pennant has constantly reiterated he is willing to stay and help Birmingham's promotion attempt and he feels a debt of gratitude to Bruce, who signed him from Arsenal despite off-the-field problems.

But Heskey has made no comment on his future since the end of the campaign.

Rovers boss Mark Hughes is looking to bolster his forward power after the loss of Paul Dickov, who rejected a new two-year contract.