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By ESPN Staff

Whelan 'delighted' as Bruce arrives at Wigan

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan hailed 'one of the best young managers in the land', after confirming he has agreed a deal to lure Steve Bruce away from Premier League rivals Birmingham.

While neither the Latics nor the Blues were expecting to issue any official statements, Wigan are believed to have secured Bruce on a £2million per year, four-year contract.

Whelan confirmed his club will pay Birmingham £3million compensation as part of the deal.

He told Sky Sports: 'I'm delighted we've got him. I think he's a big loss for Birmingham and a big signing for Wigan Athletic.'

Bruce will replace former boss Chris Hutchings, who left the club this month. Under Hutchings, Wigan briefly topped the table after three games but have lost their last seven matches and are now second bottom of the table.

Bruce previously managed the Latics for a brief period towards the end of the 2000/1 season. Whelan's decision was therefore made easier - despite his annoyance over Bruce's subsequent departure to manage Crystal Palace.

Whelan added: 'I was annoyed when he walked away but I didn't give him a contract, and he came for the last six weeks of season.

'He did a super job and got an offer from Crystal Palace, which he wanted to take. I was disappointed to lose him but I'm delighted he's come back to us.

'He'll be a fantastic signing for Wigan athletic. He's one of the best young managers in the land; I'm delighted we've got him - and he'll bring enthusiasm, knowledge and spirit to our team.'

Whelan will be relieved with his appointment, following his failure to tempt former boss Paul Jewell back to the club. Graeme Souness and Joe Royle were also linked, but Bruce's availability soon became apparent.

Bruce had become frustrated with the situation at Birmingham, who are undergoing a lengthy takeover process and whose incoming owners have been unable to give the manager the guarantees he sought.

Bruce took over the Blues, then mid-table in the Championship, in 2001 - and led them to two promotions during his period in charge, including last season's return to the top flight as runners-up to Sunderland.

The future of Bruce's number two at Birmingham, Eric Black, remains uncertain - with the Blues unwilling to release him at least until they have established a new coaching structure.

However, Whelan believes it is inevitable that Black will soon follow. He explained: 'I understand Birmingham have got a short-term problem in that there is uncertainty in terms of who is going to own the club - if people want to buy the club they should get on and do it.

'But we would like Eric Black to come as our assistant manager; I am confident we will get him but I understand he has got to stay there for a week or a fortnight. But he will be coming to us.'

Now Whelan insists the club must put the recent uncertainty behind them and concentrate on fighting their way out of the relegation zone.

'My message to the fans is 'support your team',' added Whelan.

'We need every bit of support we can get but we've got a brilliant manager now and together we have to make Wigan what it once was - a fighting team.

'Under Steve Bruce, we know Wigan will be a fighting team. What he earns he deserves - he will keep us out of relegation problems, and all the fans will be delighted we've got him.'