WIGAN TARGET BIG ECK & PSYCHO; EXCLUSIVE Whelan short-list as Hutchings is axed after six defeats All change at JJB and England U-21 boss is in frame.
DAVE WHELAN has put Scotland boss Alex McLeish and England under-21 chief Stuart Pearce on his hit-list to become the next Wigan manager.
Chairman Whelan axed Chris Hutchings before heading for a break in Barbados - but has turned his thoughts to two other 'international departures'.
McLeish's brilliant handling of Scotland's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign has put him back on the radar of Premier League clubs and he was recently sounded out about Bolton Wanderers.
The canny Scot, who has Sir Alex Ferguson as a mentor and referee, snubbed Wanderers because he has a crunch game with Italy coming up.
But McLeish may be tempted back into club management - where he was a success with Rangers, Motherwell and Hibs - and he has always fancied a crack at English football.
Whelan is willing to wait until after the Scotland-Italy showdown on Saturday week to make a move, giving caretaker Frank Barlow the chance to end the club's six-game losing streak at Spurs on Saturday.
Former Manchester City manager Pearce is the other main name in the frame. Whelan has sung his praises before and thinks he is an inspirational leader, although those remarks came before the slump that cost him his job.
However, Pearce is now established as under-21 boss and on the international ladder. He may be reluctant to go back to club management and is also based down south - commuting to Manchester for his last post.
Whelan will check out the availability of the two candidates in the next few days although the timing is sensitive in McLeish's case in particular.
Wigan need someone to turn their season round, lifting the players and spending some of Whelan's cash in the window. Hutchings had only 12 league games to show he was up to the job, the same length of time he had at Bradford City in his only other senior chance.
However, Whelan decided to get rid of him after a tame show against Chelsea on Saturday. Insiders reveal he was actually dismissed a few hours after the game but the secret was kept safe.
Hutchings does not believe he was given enough time to put things right. The 50-year-old said: "I'm very disappointed we couldn't carry on the work we started.
"We changed our style of play and we felt we wanted to get more skilful players into the team. When you're not given enough time, it's very disappointing. I didn't feel my time was up."
Hutchings was as easy to sack as he was to appoint as Paul Jewell's successor.
His pay-off is only around pounds 200,000 for his guaranteed three months' notice.
Whelan made the move before going to his Caribbean retreat.
"This has been a very difficult decision for me and the board to make," said Whelan, "but I felt we had to act in the best interests of the club and its long-term future.
"I felt Chris deserved the chance to take over last summer and I cannot fault his effort and commitment. However, it is crucial that we maintain our Premier League status and my energies will now be focused on getting the right man to take us forward."
Other contenders include former Fulham boss Chris Coleman, now at Real Sociedad, and Graeme Souness, whose last job was at Newcastle. Bookmakers have taken a considerable amount of money on Souness, with one closing the book on his prospects.
Next Wigan boss odds: (Paddy Power): 5/2 Martin Jol, 10/3 Paul Jewell, 4/1 Chris Coleman, Graeme Souness, 10/1 Iain Dowie, David O'Leary, 12/1 Peter Reid, 14/1 Frank Barlow, John Collins.
WHO'S NEXT FOR THE A XE?
LAWRIE SANCHEZ is now 5/4 favourite with William Hill to be the next Premier League boss to follow Chris Hutchings out of the door this season.
Hills make Billy Davies 2/1 second favourite and also offer 9/2 Steve Bruce; 5/1 Gareth Southgate; 10/1 Steve Coppell; 16/1 Rafa Benitez, Avram Grant; 20/1 the NEXT permanent Wigan manager; 20/1 Gary Megson; 25/1 Sam Allardyce; 33/1 Martin O'Neill, Alan Curbishley; 40 Mark Hughes; Roy Keane; David Moyes; Juande Ramos; 50/1 Harry Redknapp; 66/1 Sven Goran Erikkson; 100/1 Alex Ferguson; Arsene Wenger.
UNLUCKY, ER, 12 FOR HUTCHINGS
The 12 Premier League games that cost Hutchings his job at Bradford
Aug 19 2000: Liverpool 1 Bradford 0
Aug 22 2000: Bradford 2 Chelsea 0
Aug 26 2000: Bradford 0 Leicester 0
Sept 5 2000: Man Utd 6 Bradford 0
Sept 9 2000: Bradford 1 Arsenal 1
Sept 16 2000: Aston Villa 2 Bradford 0
Sept 23 2000: Bradford 0 Southampton 1
Sept 30 2000: West Ham 1 Bradford 1
Oct 14 2000: Man City 2 Bradford 0
Oct 21 2000: Bradford 0 Ipswich 2
Oct 29 2000: Bradford 1 Leeds 1
Nov 4 2000: Charlton 2 Bradford 0
P12 W1 D4 L7 F5 A19 Pts7
The 12 Premier League games that cost Hutchings his job at Wigan
Aug 11 2007: Everton 2 Wigan 1
Aug 15 2007: Wigan 1 Middlesbro 0
Aug 18 2007: Wigan 3 Sunderland 0
Aug 25 2007: West Ham 1 Wigan 1
Sept 1 2007: Newcastle 1 Wigan 0
Sept 15 2007: Wigan 1 Fulham 1
Sept 22 2007: Reading 2 Wigan 1
Sept 29 2007: Wigan 0 Liverpool 1
Oct 6 2007: Man Utd 4 Wigan 0
Oct 20 2007: Wigan 0 Portsmouth 2
Oct 27 2007: Birmingham 3 Wigan 2
Nov 3 2007: Wigan 0 Chelsea 2
P12 W2 D2 L8 F10 A19 Pts8
Hutchings overall Prem record
P24 W3 D6 L15 F15 A38 Pts15
FRONT RUNNERS: Alex McLeish and Stuart Pearce; WHELAN axed Chris Hutchings (left)