Sunderland clear way for talks with Bruce

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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce was expected to meet the Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn, last night after Wigan Athletic gave their manager permission to speak to the Wearside club. Bruce had been in Portugal on holiday but has flown back in preparation for talks.

Sunderland and Wigan had been involved in a stand-off regarding compensation for the Wigan manager, but a compromise appears to have been reached. Having started at £5m, the Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, was demanding £3m, the sum he paid Birmingham City for Bruce, but Sunderland were determined not to match that figure and it is believed the amount settled upon is less. That paved the way for Bruce to leave for the Stadium of Light, but last night's expected talks were the first face-to-face discussions between Bruce (right) and Quinn and no contract has yet been agreed.

No problem is anticipated, but until a contract is signed there can be no announcement from Sunderland. Assuming progress is smooth, however, there may be a statement from the club within the next 24 hours.

Bruce would then become Ellis Short's first managerial appointment. The American billionaire took complete control of Sunderland last week and immediately identified a "top ten" Premier League placing next season as his target. Sunderland have just finished 14 points adrift of 10th-placed Manchester City and only avoided relegation because of the deficiencies of others.

But Short is ambitious and enthusiastic, and Bruce will be given finance to restructure a squad that was alarmingly weak at times last season. To date, Sunderland have released eight players from a squad total of 35, including the loan signings Djibril Cissé, Tal Ben Haim and Calum Davenport.

Bruce and Sunderland will encounter some local hostility to the appointment. Bruce is a Geordie, who has talked of his support for Newcastle many times. But he never played for Newcastle, whereas Bob Stokoe did, and Stokoe went on to become arguably the most famous Sunderland manager of them all.

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