Yeung & friends talk of Birmingham's China mission

Hong Kong businesman Carson Yeung insists his friends Steve McManaman and Christian Karembeu are unlikely to have any direct influence on football policy at English Premier League club Birmingham City once his publicly-listed company Grandtop completes its buyout. According to Colin Tattum in the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce is "intrigued by the pair's involvement" but Yeung and his associates, who gave an impromptu press conference at St Andrew's yesterday, said too much was being read into the duo's presence. "We have a big plan for China, and they are part of it," said William Chan, Yeung's right-hand man, speaking on his behalf. "They have been good friends of ours for many years. They have an important mission to build an image. They are very welcome and famous people in China. They have time to go around the cities one by one, which is a good promotion for us. A lot of press are guessing why Steve McManaman has appeared. But it is just to help us and promote our expansion, our China plan."

McManaman was made an executive director of Grandtop just before it launched its successful bid to buy 29.9 percent of the club from curremt directors, making it the club's largest single shareholder. The former England winger was joined on the board by French World Cup winner Karembeu at the start of this month. "They are more like international icons to technically support our development of the club. Perhaps you might be thinking that they will affect Steve Bruce in some way - they won't. They are helping Mr Yeung as a friend and are helping Birmingham City to develop at an international level," Sammy Yu, chief operating officer of Grandtop, said. "We would like to work as a team, no matter who the people are," Yu added. "Christian, Steve, Mr Yeung, Steve Bruce - everybody. We know that to become an international club, we need talent. All of the talent will work together to make it happen."

Yeung revealed his hope that he would assume full control of Blues "immediately, in a couple of months maybe". His people are undergoing due dilligence at the moment, he said. Tapping into the huge Chinese market to boost Blues revenue streams was a key strategy, he said. He also has plans to set up a series of football academies in 10 cities initially which, in time, could provide Blues with the best players China has to offer. "I have confidence we can do very well for Birmingham in China. We have the support of the Chinese government, and we have a very good plan which will allow our idea to help promote Birmingham and turn it into an international club," he said. "You will find the name of Mr Yeung in the newspapers in Hong Kong and China every day," said Chan. "The whole of China will want this club to be successful now." Yeung added: "Next year, Birmigham could become the fifth most popular team in China."