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Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Bruce confident of keeping Heskey

Emile Heskey
Heskey has been linked with the likes of Everton, Liverpool and Aston Villa

Wigan boss Steve Bruce insists he is "very confident" of keeping Emile Heskey despite reports he is poised to leave in the January transfer window.

The England striker only has six months left on his contract, with Aston Villa among those mooted as possible buyers.

But Bruce told BBC 5 Live: "I'm very, very confident I'll keep hold of him.

"I've got the backing of the chairman with this, unless it's a real, big substantial offer, one which is really going to make us sit up."

Heskey has relaunched his England career in fine style this season as a superb foil for Wayne Rooney, although has only scored two goals for Wigan.

"At the end of the day he is England's centre forward," Bruce added.

If we lose him in January, where does that leave us?

Steve Bruce
"So even though he's got six months on his contract, if somebody wants to prise him away, then they’re going to have to pay big money for him.

"Emile has played for England, he enjoys it, he enjoys playing for us and if I was Emile I’d be looking and thinking 'I want to go as England’s centre forward to the World Cup in 18 months' time and why can I not do that with Wigan?'

"So I'm not going to give up hope that we can keep him."

Chairman Dave Whelan has previously suggested the club could cash in on Heskey, who has stalled on renewing his current deal, in the January transfer window.

Reports suggest clubs are prepared to pay around £3m- £4m for Heskey, but Bruce believes "it would have to be far more substantial to even consider it."

Heskey, 30, joined Wigan from Birmingham in 2006 for a club record fee of £5.5m.

"If we lose him in January, where does that leave us? It's got to be an outrageous offer," Bruce added.

"Even if we get a huge offer, we have to seriously think - is it the right thing for the football club?

"The prize is we stay in this division and I haven't given up hope we can keep him here.

"If he's still here in the summer, enjoying it, playing for England and playing every week, that might still be advantageous to him."

As well as Villa, Everton, who have lost striker Yakubu for the rest of the season, Heskey's former employers Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham have also been suggested as possible destinations.

Heskey's international form has been a major catalyst for the heightened interest after his lengthy international exile was ended by previous boss Steve McClaren during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

He returned for the qualifiers against Israel and Russia, and has since emerged as a key part of Fabio Capello's regime.

However, doubts remain surrounding the Leicester-born striker's goalscoring record.

He has netted five goals in 50 England appearances, while at club level Heskey has recorded just 15 goals in 81 league and cup games for the Latics.

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see also
Heskey delighted to score 100 career goals
01 Nov 08 |  Match of the Day
Heskey keeping his options open
17 Oct 08 |  Football
Heskey sends out England warning
14 Sep 07 |  Football Focus

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