Acting Birmingham City chief Peter Pannu has warned fans in England that the axe is about to fall on the already depleted squad.
Pannu's announcement from Hong Kong of an imminent fire sale at St Andrews to stave off a financial meltdown follows the arrest of club owner Carson Yeung Ka-sing this month on charges of money laundering. 'Upon my return [next week], I may have to make some unpopular decisions and I hope the fans will understand I effectively don't have a choice,' Pannu said, breaking the Championship club's silence since Yeung's arrest.
Manager Chris Houghton is already juggling Premier League promotion hopes with a weakened squad after several players left following their relegation.
Pannu (pictured) a former Hong Kong policeman-turned-barrister, is among the club's board members desperately seeking new Chinese backers before the new season starts in nine days. But Yeung's assets have been frozen and shares in the Blues parent company, Birmingham International Holdings Limited (BIHL), have been suspended from trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, making it harder to attract investors.
Adding to the distress, HSBC is leaning heavily on the club over its debts - and the team will begin the season without a shirt sponsor because of a legal dispute with Chinese kit suppliers Xtep.
'The club may need to do what is right and to buy time until Carson's assets are dislodged from the clutches of the courts in Hong Kong,' Pannu told the Birmingham Mail.
Pannu insisted when Birmingham were relegated that there would not be a clear-out to cut bills.
Blues chairman and BIHL chief executive Vico Hui and finance controller Pauline Wong are spearheading the hunt for a 'white knight'.
'Hopefully, the resumption of trading in Hong Kong could lead to raising some capital for the club to appease HSBC,' Pannu said. 'Carson has been trying hard to find new investors, but the money-laundering charges understandably meant the progress has been slow.'
The crisis has sparked anger and is dividing fans, with social networking protests and other campaigns calling on the Hong Kong-based board to quit. Last week, Yeung appointed his 18-year-old student son Ryan as a club director.
Yeung has denied five charges of money laundering and under bail conditions cannot leave Hong Kong. He will appear in court on August 11.