NEWCASTLE UNITED are ready to make an official move for former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce after identifying him as the man they want to replace Rafa Benitez.

Bruce insists he knows nothing about Newcastle's interest at this stage but Sheffield Wednesday are now braced for contact because Mike Ashley is said to be prepared to pay the compensation which is less than £1m.

Corbridge-born Bruce has been enjoying pre-season at a training camp in Portugal where the Owls beat Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night when he was quizzed on the links with the Magpies job.

But the boyhood Newcastle fan claims to know nothing about any movement towards him taking on the job, having become the bookmakers favourite after it emerged he was one of the names under consideration by Mike Ashley.

“It’s news to me. God only knows what happened on Tuesday afternoon. There seemed to be an upsurge (in the betting) from somewhere,” he said.

“John Terry was the favourite for the job (yesterday) and it was Mikel Arteta the day before. As far as I am concerned, I am here, I am going home tomorrow and looking forward to walking the dog.”

Bruce reacted as Newcastle continue the search for a new manager, with Premier League experience now in Ashley’s plans after initially considering a youthful approach.

Arteta, Steven Gerrard, Patrick Vieira and Roberto Martinez are all believed to have been in Newcastle's thinking since Benitez opted to head to China.

A failure to nail down one of those, however, has led to a change of tact and Newcastle are now looking at someone with plenty of experience behind them to cope with a difficult summer.

A Bruce appointment would likely be met with more frustration from Newcastle fans following Benitez's exit. The former Manchester United defender had a decent spell in charge of Sunderland when he led them to a tenth place between 2009-11. He is likely to want Stephen Clemence and former Middlesbrough No 2 Steve Agnew to come with him if he does accept.

Newcastle head to China on Saturday for a pre-season tour as part of the Asia Trophy and there will be an approach before then.

Benitez has spoken out to suggest he has had more meetings with the Dalian Yifang hierarchy in one week than he did in three years at Newcastle.

The Spaniard, writing in a blog, left Newcastle at the end of his contract on June 30 and signed a lucrative contract worth more than what he was offered on Tyneside. He insists, though, that it was because the club did not match his own ambitions.

"Since the moment of our arrival we have really been touched by the kindness and respect that we have been shown," wrote Benitez.

"Our hosts have treated us with great consideration and are always keen to make us happy.

"As we all know from experience, in football, just as in everyday life, when people show you respect and affection and do everything they can to make things easier for you, life is much happier, even when you face difficult moments.

"I must say that I have had more meetings with the chairman, the president and the general manager this week, than I had in three years at Newcastle.

"They haven't just been work meetings, rather signs of respect in which we have been able to appreciate the differences and similarities in our cultures."