Coyle: 'Am I as good as ever? Probably better ...'


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The Independent Football

Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, has responded in defiant fashion to his team's precarious position at the foot of the Premier League table and to the increasing speculation that defeat at Blackburn tonight would edge him closer to dismissal.

While the public pressure on Coyle is far less severe than that currently mounting upon his opposite number at Rovers, Steve Kean, there is no doubt that Bolton supporters, previously super-loyal to their former playing hero, are beginning to lose patience. However, Coyle appears to still have the full backing of chairman Phil Gartside and club owner Eddie Davies.

The Scotsman reacted testily yesterday when asked if he had done any soul-searching during this dire run. Coyle pointed to the pre-season loss to injury of influential midfielders Stuart Holden and Chung-Yong Lee and insisted he believes himself to be a better manager than ever.

"Yeah, well, I look back and ask myself how I could have stopped two players suffering broken legs and everything else," said Coyle sarcastically. "What is it that you want to know – am I as good a manager as I have always been before? The answer is 'probably better'."

Gartside and Davies do appear to fully accept Coyle's plan of treating this campaign as a season of "transition" while waiting for the contracts of 13 first-team players to expire next summer. They all clearly foresee a considerable, and much-needed, rebuilding job at the end of the season.

"I know what they have said to me," said Coyle. "I have a terrific relationship with them and they know what I am putting in place at this football club. Because that is behind the scenes, a lot of people don't see that. [But] we know it is about points, because no matter all the pieces of the jigsaw you might be putting in place, that has to be done on the back of good results. I know that."

Figures of derision: rivals' form

25 per cent: The percentage of games Blackburn have won with Steve Kean as manager – his predecessor Sam Allardyce had 35 per cent in his time in charge.

6 The number of victories Bolton have had in all competitions since they were defeated 5-0 by Stoke in the FA Cup semi-final in April.

12 Blackburn are two points worse off at this stage than when they were relegated in 1998-99, when they had 12 points after 16 games.