Wigan have agreed to let Steve Bruce leave for Sunderland and have lined up Swansea's Roberto Martinez as his replacement. Brucecould be confirmed as the next manager at the Stadium of Light within amatter of days if the two clubs come to a swift agreement oncompensation.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan is determined to make a profit on the£3million he paid Birmingham for Bruce in 2007, but the Wearsiders arereluctant to go as high as £5m. A settlement somewhere in betweenshould not be difficult to reach.
Bruce, 48, is concerned that Sunderland fans will not accept a Geordie as their manager but that will not stop him seizing the chance to manage a club with considerable financial backing after working on a strict budget at both Wigan and Birmingham.
Wigan, having sold Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey in January, are poised to sell Antonio Valencia, with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all interested in the £20m-rated Ecuador winger.
The Latics, with a limited turnover and with Whelan talking of a self-sustaining club, need the cash to fund summer rebuilding. Paul Scharner is another player who could move on. Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn is unhappy that Wigan allowed their approach to be leaked following Ricky Sbragia's resignation on Sunday.
But for ambitious Bruce, it is a convenient moment to move on, with his stock high after finishing 11th. For Wigan, it is a chance to bank compensation for the manager and backroom team he wants to take with him - assistant Eric Black, goalkeeping coach Nigel Spink and coach Keith Bertschin and shave the wage bill.
Whelan may have to pay a sevenfigure sum to prise Martinez from Swansea, but it will not rival the £5m he is demanding for Bruce. Nor will Wigan expect to pay the Spaniard anything close to Bruce's £45,000 a week, a salary negotiated when the Latics were fighting to avoid relegation.
Whelan is a great admirer of Martinez, an ex-Wigan player, who has taken Swansea into the Championship with a progressive style. Bruce will strike many Sunderland supporters as a strange choice for the new regime, given his undying love for Newcastle.
In fact, if Alan Shearer's negotiations with Newcastle fall through, Bruce could still be the No 1 contender for St James' Park.
Whether Shearer will eventually become the permanent manager was still unclear last night. He emerged from talks with managing director Derek Llambias, apparently unhappy with the progress he is making.
Shearer has requested guarantees over budget, transfers and the running of the club from owner Mike Ashley, but as their talks enter a third day there are fears surrounding the former Toon legend's future.
When greeted by young fans at the gates of the club's training ground yesterday he was asked if he was staying and answered simply: 'I don't know.'
There is renewed speculation that Ashley still intends to sell the club after it emerged that Keith Harris, chairman of international bank Seymour Price, has been back on Tyneside awaiting Ashley's intentions.