Bruce on verge of Sunderland job

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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce is on the verge of becoming Sunderland manager after Wigan accepted a compensation package offered by the north-east club.

The Latics boss, born just a few miles outside Newcastle, was identified as the number one target by Black Cats chairman Niall Quinn and it now appears he has got his man.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan stressed he would not let his manager leave on the cheap, having paid £3million to release Bruce from his Birmingham contract in November 2007.

Whelan has now accepted a suitable fee from their Premier League rivals, although it is believed to be less than the £3million Wigan were looking for.

A compromise was reached as both clubs were looking for a swift conclusion to negotiations with pre-season training due to start in just over a month.

Sunderland officials are in Portugal to speak to Bruce, who is on holiday, but it is not expected negotiations over personal terms will be a stumbling block.

Bruce, who turned down the Newcastle job in the past, will take over at the Stadium of Light at the best possible time after American businessman Ellis Short assumed total control last week.

The former Birmingham and Crystal Palace manager is likely to have access to a substantial transfer fund but Short expects a return on his money.

Sunderland escaped relegation by only two points last month but the new owner has already targeted a top-10 finish next season.

That will present a new challenge for Bruce, whose one and a half campaigns at Wigan - and previous top-flight campaigns with Birmingham - were primarily about guaranteeing survival.

One thing Bruce has experience of is getting the best out of the resources he is given.

Despite a limited budget at the JJB Stadium he kept the club up in 2008 having taken over with them deep in relegation trouble and came very close to getting Wigan into Europe for the first time in their history this season.

They ended the campaign 11th, the club's second-best top-flight finish, but Bruce admitted he was hamstrung by having to sell midfielder Wilson Palacios and striker Emile Heskey to Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively in January.

With winger Antonio Valencia destined for an £18million exit this summer, Paul Scharner touting for a move and just one first-team striker on the books Bruce was facing another rebuilding exercise at the JJB Stadium.

There has also been speculation Bruce had to slash the wage bill by £4million for the start of next season, which could have led to more players being shown the door.

Sunderland have offered Bruce an exit route from that, one he is likely to seize, as he looks to take the next step in his career.

Wigan have already been linked with Swansea boss Roberto Martinez - whom Celtic have made an enquiry about - Peterborough's Darren Ferguson and former manager Paul Jewell.

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