Bruce 'under no pressure' to sell Upson

November 24, 2006

Birmingham manager Steve Bruce insisted he is 'under no pressure' from the club's hierarchy to sell defender Matthew Upson during the January transfer window.

And Bruce is hoping Upson may have a change of heart about his future if the midlands club can reclaim their place in the Premiership.

Upson has just returned to full fitness after an Achilles problem suffered in April but he has only 18 months to run of his current contract after refusing a five-year deal last season.

In an ideal world Bruce would like to keep Upson on a long-term basis but is also aware he cannot allow the former Arsenal player to wind down his contract and leave for nothing on a Bosman transfer.

Bruce said: 'I am under no pressure to sell Matthew in January and, if we got promotion again, then perhaps he might think differently about staying.

'Matthew is a top professional in everything he does and would never give you less than 100%.

'But my job is to protect the investment of the football club. I don't want to sell anybody but equally I am not going to let a player like Matthew drift out of contract. That would be bad management.

'For now I am just delighted that a player of his quality is available for selection because he is possibly our best player.'

Bruce, however, is conscious of the performances of the current back four who have conceded only one goal in the last six league games.

He said: 'Matthew being available gives me the sort of great headache that any manager would desire.

'Matthew is a top player but I am mindful of how well the current lads have done.'

Bruce is optimistic his skipper Damien Johnson could be back available for the demanding Christmas programme after breaking his jaw in a challenge with West Brom defender Paul Robinson a month ago.

Bruce said: 'Damien is looking good in the sense he could be back within the next three or four weeks, possibly for the festive programme.

'That would be a boost for us because you need everyone you possibly can for the number of games which are coming up in December and January.

'It would take him time to build up his body weight again because he has lost over a stone while having his jaw wired up but I am sure he would be okay.

'It was people like Damien, Martin Taylor and Stephen Clemence who I brought into the side at the start of this good run and they have all done us proud.'