Birmingham City have caved into the inevitable and granted Steve Bruce permission to begin discussions with Wigan Athletic about the vacant manager’s position at the JJB Stadium.
All that remains now for Bruce to end his six-year tenure at St Andrew’s is an agreement over terms with Dave Whelan and given the £50,000 a week the Wigan chairman offered former boss Paul Jewell a few days ago, that has to be considered something of a sinecure.
Although Whelan will have to stump up more than £2 million in compensation, he is determined to get his man and that resolve is about to pay off given the emasculated position in which the Birmingham board find themselves.
The exact detail of the compensation package is yet to be decided, however. The position of Bruce’s assistant Eric Black is central to negotiations. Wigan want to take the Scot as soon as possible but Blues are anxious to have a steady hand at the tiller until a successor is found.
Wigan hope to unveil Bruce on Tuesday when Whelan returns from his holiday in Barbados, from where he promised to give the new man all the help he needed to lift the Latics out of the relegation zone.
"I will back him to the hilt, like I did Paul Jewell, because he is the man I want at Wigan," Whelan said.
"I believe Steve Bruce can take this club forward again and if he does come here a lot of uncertainty in his life will gone."
But Birmingham, whose board will meet over the next couple of days, cannot say the same. They must now begin their search for the man to keep them in the Premier League.
Although recent results have not been spectacular, Blues have lost six of their last seven, there will be a good deal of despondency at St Andrew’s about Bruce’s departure.
For the large part he enjoyed a harmonious relationship with current owners David and Ralph Gold and David Sullivan, who stood by him following the club’s relegation from the Premiership and early struggles in the Championship.
It proved a good decision as Bruce negotiated the problems and guided Birmingham back to the top flight. While his start to the current campaign has been patchy, City have fared better than fellow new boys Derby County and Sunderland.
But Bruce’s relationship with the club has deteriorated ever since prospective new owner Carson Yeung launched his take over bid.
Since then Birmingham have found their hands tied. Business regulations mean they have been unable to ratify the new rolling contract agreed by Bruce and Sullivan in the summer.
Combine that with the fact Yeung has been considerably less than effusive in his backing for Bruce and has refused to make a financial commitment ahead of the January transfer window and it is clear Bruce feels the need to move in case he is pushed.
Sources close to him have spoken of his need for a fresh challenge and although Wigan isn’t entirely fresh, it is definitely a challenge. They are second bottom with just two wins all season.
Bruce was in charge there for two months in 2001 before he left to join Crystal Palace during which time he built up a good understanding with Whelan.
The sports shop entrepreneur sacked Chris Hutchings earlier this month having given Jewell’s successor just 12 games in the job.
He tried to tempt Jewell back with ‘an outstanding offer’ - £50,000 a week and a £2 million signing bonus but was turned down.
But Whelan now wants Bruce, who in his playing days was a no-nonsense enforcing centre-back, to restore the determination to the Wigan side.
He has sought the advice of the 46-year-old’s former manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, who has reportedly told the Wigan chairman that Bruce is one of the two brightest young managers in the Premiership, Mark Hughes being the other.
For their part Birmingham now face the worst of all outcomes. Yeung’s takeover is reported to be foundering – he has asked for more time to complete his buyout, and if it were to collapse entirely no one would enjoy the irony that the deal that never was lost Blues their manager.