Wigan boss Bruce: Heskey can save us

Wigan Athletic boss Steve Bruce is leaning on England striker Emile Heskey to fire the club to safety this season.

Bruce even claims it is highly likely he would not be in the JJB Stadium hot-seat if Heskey had not spent so long on the sidelines as Wigan crumbled in his absence.

"That's quite possible," remarked Bruce. "I know what it is like to be without your best players, and I feel for (former boss) Chris (Hutchings). I really, really do. He is a football man who didn't have the best of luck in that he didn't have Heskey or (Antonio) Valencia for long spells, two big players to replace.

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"I had the same when Birmingham were relegated as Mikael Forssell, Stan Lazaridis, Matthew Upson, David Dunne and Muzzy Izzet were all out with long-term injuries and the squad could not cope. At a club like Wigan, Birmingham or Derby, if you lose your best three, four or five players for weeks on end then it is going to be a tough struggle.

"But Emile has trained the last couple of days. We're delighted about that, so we think he'll play. We have to remember he is a big, huge guy, and after being out for 10 weeks or so, this is like a pre-season for him.

"It's going to take a while, but he is working extremely hard, and let's hope he stays fit because he is like a talisman here."

After working with Heskey before during his days with City, Bruce knows how crucial Heskey is to the team despite the criticism he often faces with regard to his lack of goals.

"I said when I signed him (for Birmingham), he is the best centre forward in England because of the way he plays, and he has proved it," added Bruce. "He has everything a centre forward would want - he's big, strong, powerful, can receive the ball and can finish.

"The only question mark is whether he gets enough goals, and I can understand that. But it's what he does for the rest of the team, what he brings to the team, and how he leads the team that's going to be vitally important to me.

"And he is going to be the leader. He earned that from his performance in the final game of last season at Sheffield United.

"I sat and watched that and drooled over him because it was a fantastic performance.

"When you work with him and you see what he has, then he could go into any team - and I mean this sincerely - and he would stop any doubter."

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