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Time for Coyle: Is this the next Ireland manager?

If he keeps this up at Bolton, Owen Coyle might be lucky enough to succeed Giovanni Trapattoni. Not that the Italian is as negative as Gary Megson, of course.

Image: Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport

“What I ask of these players is that they go toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the world and see how good they are.” – The words of Bolton Wanderers manager, Owen Coyle, after beating Wolverhampton Wanderers two weeks ago.

Two of the words that became synonymous with Owen Coyle when he left Burnley mid-way through last season were “Judas” and “traitor”. Now, he is fast becoming Bolton’s saviour and Messiah, an antidote to Gary Megson.

Despite saving the Trotters from relegation on two occasions, Gary Megson was still a maligned figure at the club and among fans.

However, under the stewardship of Coyle, things have changed. Bolton are no longer the long-ball team that arrived in the Premier League in 2000. This season especially, they are playing a more attacking and attractive brand of football, while also displaying determination to grind out results – two defeats in 14 games suggests this.

After 14 games, Bolton currently lie in 5th place on 22 points – not exactly the position many would have expected them to be in at this stage – having previously held a reputation for floundering in the bottom half of the table.

Looking at all this from statistical point of view (@optajoe) and in the interests of putting this league position into perspective, 22 points is only Bolton’s fourth-best start to a Premier League season in terms of points after 14 games. In 2004/05 they had 23 points, 05/06 they had 26 points and 06/07 they had 23 points.

The performances of Zat Knight and Gary Cahill in defence, Stuart Holden in midfield, Kevin Davies and, in particular, Johan Elmander up front have been particularly pleasing. As Phil McNulty wrote on his BBC Blog about Johan Elmander, “The Sweden striker, who hung like a £10m millstone around Megson’s neck, has been a cornerstone of Coyle’s revival.”

Elmander has finally proved that there has been a finisher in there somewhere, and in mid-November he stands as the second highest scorer in the Premier League. His strike partner, Kevin Davies, recently capped by England, has found the net on six occasions and is just one goal off equalling his total for the whole of last season. Again, it’s November.

Sadly, while Bolton are doing the business on the field, matters are far from perfect off of it.

Last week, Barney Ronay wrote that, “This is a team that is essentially too good for its own good”. Why is this, you may ask? Well, like so many Premier League clubs, Bolton are in the red – and in the red to the tune of a cool £93million. And just two weeks ago, the club announced losses of £35.4million for the year to June 30th.

When asked about the need to sell players, Coyle said: “If and when the right offer comes in for anybody you would have to look at it. But I do not feel under any more pressure today than I was two days ago to sell any players.”

Five wins, seven draws, and two defeats, bearing in mind Arsenal and Chelsea have both lost four games. In 14 games, Bolton have gleaned 22 points, which is a third of their total points from last season (39). Without doubt, it has been an impressive start to the season by anybody’s standards.

The question on everybody’s lips will be this: can the Trotters keep this form up, or will they fall into that dreaded mid-season slump after the dream start?

Ian Walsh writes for various websites including: Touchline Views, BPF and Twofootedtackle, where this post first appeared.

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Ian Walsh

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