Wigan aim to bounce back from Bruce blow

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The Independent Online

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan feels "devastated" by the departure of manager Steve Bruce to Sunderland but insists the club will move on quickly.

Bruce was finally confirmed as Black Cats boss this afternoon when the Wearsiders agreed a suitable compensation package with the Latics following two days of negotiations.

He will be joined at the Stadium of Light by assistant Eric Black, goalkeeping coach Nigel Spink and reserve team boss Keith Bertschin.

It means Wigan have lost all the major components of their backroom staff.

Whelan was a great admirer of Bruce and having paid £3million to release him from his Birmingham contract in November 2007 he was rewarded as the former Manchester United defender saved the club from relegation that season.

He then guided Wigan to their second-best Barclays Premier League finish - success which did not go unnoticed by Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn when he was looking for a replacement for Ricky Sbragia.

"Everyone associated with Wigan is devastated that Steve and Eric have gone, we would be lying if we said any different," said Whelan.

"But things can change very quickly and I have always said I would not stand in anyone's way who wishes to leave the club, as long as the terms are in the best interest of Wigan.

"What Steve has achieved here over the past 18 months has been magnificent.

"After a period of instability, he put the team in order and started laying the foundations for a prosperous future.

"We finished in our second-highest ever league position this season and this is something we will be looking to build upon going forward."

Whelan's most important job now is to get the right man to take over.

He has already approached Swansea to speak to their highly-rated manager Roberto Martinez but was taken aback by the £2million-plus compensation fee demanded by the south Wales club.

However, that does not mean Whelan, a successful businessman, will not negotiate hard if he feels the Spaniard is the best candidate.

Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins admits the two parties are "miles apart" in their valuation of the 35-year-old former Wigan player.

"Wigan asked for permission to speak to Roberto. They asked what compensation we would be looking for and we talked about different figures," he told the Press Association.

"I told them what I valued Roberto at and they told me what they thought - we were miles apart to say the least.

"I have not given them permission to talk to Roberto."

Other names being linked to the vacancy include Peterborough's Darren Ferguson, who has just guided his side to promotion from League One, and former manager Paul Jewell.

Whelan hopes to be able to make inroads in his search over the next week but is conscious he cannot afford to get it wrong - as he did when he promoted Chris Hutchings from within when Jewell quit in May 2007.

"As for a new manager, we have several options to consider and we will be talking to clubs and candidates over the next seven days," added the Wigan chairman.

"We will not rush the appointment as it is a decision not to be taken lightly."

Veteran goalkeeper Mike Pollitt, who signed a new one-year contract last week, admits the loss of Bruce - and his backroom staff - is a huge blow.

"It's disappointing that the gaffer is going after what he's done here but I suppose when someone is offered a job like that with the promise of a lot of money to spend, then they have to take it," he said.

"I'll be sad to see him go. Life goes on though and now it will be interesting to see who comes in."

Pollitt would welcome the return of Jewell, whom he played under previously at the club, but admits someone like Martinez could shake things up.

"I got on well with Paul here the first time and I think he'd do a good job," he told the Wigan Evening Post.

"Roberto Martinez would be an interesting one, totally different to what we've had before.

"He's had Swansea playing with a bit of Spanish flair and likes good football."

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