Coyle focused on vital clash

 

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The Independent Online

Bolton manager Owen Coyle is taking no notice of the unwritten rule which states the team bottom of the table at Christmas will almost certainly be relegated.

In the previous 19 years of the Premier League only one side - West Brom in 2004/5 - have managed to survive having been in last place come December 25.

And if Bolton fail to beat Blackburn at Ewood Park tomorrow they will have the Christmas curse hanging over them for the rest of the season.

But for the ever-positive Coyle, the lessons of recent history have little significance.

"Facts and stats are whatever you want to make of them," he said. "My focus is only tomorrow night, looking to get those [three] points.

"There is no getting away from the fact that we are absolutely disappointed with where we are.

"Even given the circumstances with injuries and suspensions I don't think anyone would have envisaged the points return we would have from the games we have played.

"We are not looking for excuses and the bottom line is we have to change it and we are the only ones who can do that.

"The position we are in doesn't lie and we have to get ourselves out of that and the only way we can do that is by winning games and moving up the league.

"The talking has to stop and we have to go and deliver on the pitch and we have players capable of winning the game."

Bolton have won just three matches this season and conceded 38 goals in 16 games.

Unsurprisingly that is the worst record in the league, but Blackburn are only two goals better off.

Too often in games Bolton have gone behind and not found a response until it was too late, leaving Coyle questioning his squad's fighting spirit in recent weeks.

But with the halfway stage of the season fast approaching, the Scot has called for players to start taking more responsibility with individual leadership.

"We can talk about the natural ability footballers have, but in times when you are tested you need more than that," he added.

"You need people that are prepared to stand up and be counted and show mental strength in their ability and impart that on their performance.

"We accept when your team is going well everyone wants to join in and be the life and soul of the party, but when you are tested that is when you have to show your character and be prepared to put in that shift for yourselves and your team.

"I believe we do have the right amount of character in the squad but that is going to be tested and now is the time for everyone to show they do have that.

"Because of where we are we have left ourselves open for criticism and that goes with the territory, but I've said to the players they have to see through that, get to the other side and the people who have doubted you will stop."

Coyle, who has been publicly supported by chairman Phil Gartside, has played down speculation that the loser of tomorrow's crunch clash will be sacked.

But he does not fear the axe, should it come.

"Have your opinion, call it any way you like but it doesn't faze me," he said. "In terms of my own situation, whatever is going to happen will happen.

"I try to work with a smile on my face, although it is difficult at this time because we are not getting the results we should be, and I won't change that.

"We all have jobs to do and as long as no-one gets personal about anyone at my club we will not have a problem about that.

"But what I do know is by going and winning points you can turn that opinion very quickly.

"Because of the circumstances of both clubs there is no doubt this is the biggest game of the season.

"But we also know it could be the platform and catalyst for us to pick up points and move forward and start moving up the league.

"It is a great opportunity as far as I am concerned."

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