Whelan tells Jewell to name his price for new Wigan deal

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The Independent Football

Dave Whelan began the task of protecting Wigan Athletic from any post-Carling Cup final trauma yesterday when he promised Paul Jewell a job for life at the JJB Stadium and asked the impressive young manager to request the length of his next contract.

The Wigan chairman did not disguise his bitter disappointment at Sunday's emphatic defeat by Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium. However, a former career as a professional with Blackburn Rovers has also afforded Whelan a rare sense of perspective, and having witnessed an outstanding return on his investment since Jewell arrived at the JJB in 2001 he will not allow one isolated result to diminish the Scouser's achievement.

Whelan said: "Paul can stay as long as he wishes and I've told him 'name the length of your contract', but I will back Paul in whatever he chooses to do and that includes leaving this club for one of the big clubs if that is what he wants to do. Manchester United and Liverpool are big clubs. Chelsea are a big club too, but they are down south and I can't see Paul going down there." Jewell has a £500,000 escape clause in his Wigan contract that has alerted several Premiership clubs.

Whether the openness that exists between Jewell and Whelan applies to Ruud Van Nistelrooy's relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson following the Dutch striker's omission in Cardiff, however, remains unclear.

Having been left on the bench throughout United's 4-0 win Van Nistelrooy made an early exit from the post-match celebrations and did not elaborate on his reaction to being dropped as he left the stadium. Despite pledging his loyalty to the club last week the 29-year-old, whose effort was criticised by Ferguson during United's FA Cup defeat at Liverpool, may reconsider his position in the knowledge he is admired by several clubs in Italy and Spain. "I am not going to answer any questions on this subject," said his agent, Rodger Linse, last night.

The Football League will look favourably on any request from United to award Alan Smith a Carling Cup winners' medal. Smith missed Sunday's final as he begins his long recovery from the broken leg suffered at Anfield on 18 February.