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By ESPN Staff

Wigan chairman keen to talk to Bruce

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has confirmed his club have asked Birmingham for permission to speak to their manager Steve Bruce.

The Latics are looking for a successor to Chris Hutchings, and after failing to entice Paul Jewell back to the club he left in May have now stepped up their interest in Bruce, who managed the club from April to May 2001.

Bruce has been at St Andrews since December 2001 and has twice led the Blues to promotion to the Premier League - but he has yet to be offered an extension to his contract which expires in 2009 as uncertainty continues to surround the proposed takeover of Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung.

Whelan confirmed he is now waiting for a response from Birmingham and told BBC Radio Five Live: 'Steve Bruce has worked with me before, he was with me at Wigan five or six years ago for two months and did a super job then.

'I know there is a bit of a situation at Birmingham where the Chinese people are supposed to be taking over, they will not give Steve Bruce an answer (and) they will not extend his contract which is running out, so obviously he was a candidate for us.'

'It all depends on Birmingham City, if they give us permission we will talk to him.

'Obviously if Birmingham say `sorry, you can't speak to him' then he is under contract to them and we would have to abide by that.'

Wigan are determined to have a new manager in place before their next Barclays Premier League fixture away to Arsenal on November 24.

Hutchings was sacked on November 5 and Whelan had attempted to lure Jewell back to the JJB Stadium, but he revealed yesterday he had rejected a 'fabulous' offer to come back and was looking for a new challenge.

Graeme Souness and Joe Royle, both currently out of management, have been linked with the post while MK Dons boss Paul Ince today distanced himself from speculation linking him to the job.

Bruce is aware he could be out of a job in January should the takeover by the Hong Kong businessman go ahead.

He held what were described as 'positive talks' with Yeung a fortnight ago after the home 3-2 win against Wigan.

But he admitted before the derby against Aston Villa that he has no idea what his transfer budget will be in January when he strives to strengthen the current squad during their battle to stay in the top flight.

Bruce has enjoyed a close working relationship with co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan, declining the Newcastle job three years ago and then being backed by the club's owners midway through last season when his future looked in doubt because of poor results.

But the uncertainty over whether he has a long-term future at City may force him to reluctantly look elsewhere.

Bruce was unavailable for comment.