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By ESPN Staff

Sunderland ponder next move in manager search

Sunderland are playing a waiting game in their search for a new manager.

Wigan Athletic have told Steve Bruce he is free to talk to the Black Cats after initial contact was made to discuss a compensation package.

However, the Wearsiders are yet to take up the opportunity to meet the 48-year-old as they consider the financial implications of a move which could cost them between £3m and £5m.

In addition, they are understood to have received a deluge of applications for the post vacated by Ricky Sbragia within minutes of Sunday's 3-2 home defeat by Chelsea as results elsewhere ensured the club's continued presence in the Premier League.

Chairman Niall Quinn admitted at the weekend that he had not even heard of some of those who had put themselves forward for the job when Roy Keane resigned in December.

However, there are several high-profile candidates this time around and while Bruce is among them, the cost of easing him out of Wigan means his appointment is far from a certainty.

For those reasons, no decision is imminent and the search seems certain to go on into next week.

Bruce remains a hot favourite with the bookmakers, with Ladbrokes quoting him as a 2/7 shot at the head of a field which also includes Gordon Strachan, Slaven Bilic and Sven-Goran Eriksson, with Croatia coach Bilic also figuring high in the betting for the job vacated by Strachan at Celtic, where Tony Mowbray is the man for the bookies.

Quinn, backed by new owner Ellis Short, is determined to recruit a big name to build the club's profile once again - they were catapulted into the headlines at home and abroad when they managed to recruit Roy Keane in August 2006 - and more importantly, establish the club in the top half of the Barclays Premier League.

Sunderland stayed up by just two points at the end of last season having targeted a much better return, and with Short once again funding a summer recruitment drive, they will hope to banish fears of relegation once and for all.

However, the Irish-American billionaire had insisted he will not spend unnecessarily having been dismayed with some of the signings the club made during the last close-season, with Pascal Chimbonda and El-Hadji Diouf lasting only six months at the Stadium of Light.

It appears that value-for-money approach will extend to the hunt for a new manager too with the Black Cats weighing up the cost of a compensation package which could colour their decision.

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