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Real Madrid
By ESPN Staff

Wigan forced to abort unveiling of Bruce

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan is hopeful of confirming Steve Bruce as the club's new manager within the next 24 hours.

Bruce was due to be appointed today, but that has been put on hold due to an issue between the 46-year-old and former club Birmingham.

The matter is understood to be regarding a severance payment Bruce feels he is entitled to, although Wigan refused to divulge details as to why their season had suddenly been thrown into limbo.

So instead of a press conference with Bruce at the helm, flanked by Whelan and chief executive Brenda Spencer, it was left to the latter to embarrassingly confirm the delay.

'Unfortunately an issue has arisen between Birmingham and Steve, and until that is resolved we can't announce him as our manager,' stated Spencer.

'We have agreed compensation, but this issue is nothing to do with Wigan. It's between Steve and Birmingham.

'Our chairman is desperate we have a manager in place, and he is hopeful something will happen in the next 24 hours.

'We just have to sit tight, hold fire and hope that it will be resolved, that Steve can sort it out.

'Steve is our number one, and hopefully he will be appointed. But the issue first has to be resolved between Birmingham and Steve.

'It's something we have been working on all morning to resolve, and we've been in contact with Birmingham, but we can't really do anything.

'It's frustrating, especially as it happened late yesterday. Dave (Whelan) is very upset because we were hoping to have Steve sign his contract and appoint him today.'

Asked if Bruce's plan to take Eric Black, his number two at St Andrews, with him to the JJB Stadium had influenced the delay, Spencer replied: 'It is nothing to do with anything else.

'It's just between Birmingham and Steve.'

If the appointment does eventually go through, Bruce will sign a three-year deal, with Blues to receive £3million compensation.

Wigan will initially pay £2million, with a further £1million due at the end of the season should Bruce keep Wigan in the Barclays Premier League.

At present, Wigan are one off the bottom following a run of seven successive defeats, a miserable sequence that led to Whelan axing Chris Hutchings prior to the latest, a 4-0 hammering at Spurs.

After a failed attempt to coax Paul Jewell into a return, Whelan turned to Bruce, who was in charge for 56 days and eight games at the end of the 2000/01 season.

'We definitely want him, and he wants to come to Wigan,' insisted Spencer, who then conceded there was a contingency plan in place.

'We do have a list, but Steve has always been the one we wanted,' added Spencer.

'Depending on the situation with Steve, we will have to wait and see whether we work our way down that list.

'But we've been without a manager now for two weeks, and we really want a manager in place - if possible - by the weekend.'

It means caretaker boss Frank Barlow will again work with the team tomorrow ahead of Saturday's daunting trip to leaders Arsenal.