Steve Bruce admits he ‘really hopes’ former club Wigan Athletic can avoid relegation from the Championship - despite his Aston Villa side hammering another nail in the coffin on Saturday.
However, Bruce - who enjoyed two spells as Latics manager before moving on to Sunderland, Hull and now Villa - acknowledges it will be a tough ask for Graham Barrow and his players, who are now seven points adrift of safety with only eight games to go.
“Being honest, you’ve got to admit it does look bleak for them,” acknowledged Bruce.
“But knowing this club, they’ll never give up.
“I saw Mr Whelan before the game, and he remains arguably the best chairman I’ve ever worked for.
“He’ll never give up the fight, because that’s exactly the kind of person he is.
“And I really hope they can produce the five or six wins they need to stay up.”
Despite cutting short his second spell in controversial circumstances when Sunderland came calling in 2009, Bruce insists he has only fond memories of his time at Wigan.
“I still look for Wigan’s results, because I had two really good spells here as manager,” he revealed.
“I maybe let a few people down when I left the second time, but I really enjoyed my time here.
“Arguably the best team I’ve had in 20 years of management was here.
“From one December (2007) to the following December (2008) we managed to pick up 63 points - which is quite remarkable.
“You look at the team we had...Valencia, Palacios, Cattermole, N’Zogbia, Heskey, Melchiot, Bramble, Scharner, Figueroa...it was a pleasure to manage.
“We had a terrific side - until the big boys came and started buying them all!
“We did too well! But it was a great couple of years.
“Maybe it was a mistake from me to leave...but that’s for another time.”
Bruce admitted Latics pushed his Villa side all the way before late goals from James Chester and Scott Hogan set up a fifth win in six matches.
“They gave us a really tough game, that’s how difficult the Championship is,” Bruce added.
“They were really game, they’ve had a change of manager, change of formation, change of shape, and they caused us a few problems.
“It’s good to see us show a little bit of resilience but, if we’re being honest, we’ve got to be better than what we’ve been.
“But at least we stuck at it, and we got a win - and that’s what this league is all about.”