Fans have faith that Coyle is guiding light

Bolton are two places below neighbours Blackburn but few at the Reebok are calling for manager's dismissal

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To many Bolton Wanderers fans, the question is understandable but irrelevant. "Quite a few people have asked me if I'd be prepared to go back to playing the way we used to if it meant staying up," admits Stephen Horrocks, the chairman of the Lancaster branch of the Wanderers Supporters' Association. "But my reply is there's no point even thinking about it. While Owen is the manager it's not going to happen, so we just have to have faith. And 95 per cent of us do."

The continued use of the first name is as instructive as the sentiment. This season's home league record of played 10, won one, lost eight notwithstanding, a comfortable majority of Bolton supporters appear to remain convinced that Owen Coyle is the right man for the job. Which is not to say, as Horrocks acknowledges, that they believe he will keep them up.

"If anyone can he can, but it's obviously going to be a struggle. We've lost Gary Cahill [to Chelsea] , we have problems with injuries and unless we can find a consistent goalscorer we may well be in the Championship next season, because three from us, Wigan, QPR, Blackburn and Wolves will go down. Again though, I can't think of anyone I'd rather rebuild the team if the worst happens."

The difference between the attitude of the Bolton supporters to Coyle and that of their Blackburn equivalents to another Glaswegian, Steve Kean, 14 miles up the road, is remarkable. It helps that Coyle, a much-admired former Bolton player, was the fans' choice in the first place, but there is more to it than that and Coyle appreciates not having to try to do his job against a background of sustained abuse.

"The supporters have been great, patient, especially at home," he says, "and it was good to reward them by getting a win against Macclesfield in the FA Cup earlier this week, but I'd like to think it has something to do with the fact they understand what we are looking to do.

"When we came to the turn of the year everybody said 'Look at Bolton's fixture list: Everton away, Manchester United away, Liverpool and Arsenal at home' and thought we'd get nothing from it. But we started with a terrific three points at Everton, performed well for long periods in the Manchester United game and prior to that we'd drawn with Wolves."


Coyle points out that had Bolton picked up the same number of points at home as away, they would be in mid-table comfort.

"We've actually been on an OK run of form, so we go into games like that against Liverpool on Saturday looking to show our qualities. We know they've spent £100m in the space of a year, but we know we've got players who, when they are at their best, can win the game."

Faith matters to Coyle, a practising Catholic, and he believes most Bolton supporters recognise that things are beginning to turn around.

"I think we showed at Everton that something of our resilience is returning. It would have been easy for heads to drop after conceding that freak goal [to the Everton goalkeeper, Tim Howard] but we came back, scored two magnificent goals, and that belief was great to see.

"The fact is we have a number of top players who would get into a lot of Premier League teams, but who we've not been able to call on all season – the likes of Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-yong – but we get on with it, and I truly believe we'll stay in the Premier League. If we do that the club will be in very strong position in terms of how we want to restructure. We have a group of terrific young players, we also have experienced players playing their part and that augurs very well for the second part of the season.

"I was disappointed with the result [a 3-0 defeat] at Manchester United last week, but even then, for me Mark Davies was the best player on the pitch. Like all our young players there are areas of his game he can improve but he can be a top, top player."

While Coyle can only be happy that most supporters remain more or less in his corner, of more immediate relevance must be the backing – financial and otherwise – he gets from the Bolton board.

How much of the £7m Bolton received from Chelsea for Cahill is spent over the next 10 days or so could be revealing, and in that respect the likely arrival of the central defender Tim Ream from the New York Red Bulls, and the news that Philadelphia striker Sebastien le Toux is coming on a week's trial, may be less encouraging than the impending return of Holden.

"It's about value," said Coyle. And in the longer term, about values.

Living on a prayer: Coaches and religion

Owen Coyle

Born and raised in Paisley, where Celtic Park was another local place of worship, Coyle's Catholic beliefs have helped him maintain a disciplined lifestyle throughout his career. Upon leaving Burnley, whom he had led into the Premier League promised land, to join Lancashire rivals Bolton, Coyle famously hit back at the furious Turf Moor faithful. "You should call me Moses, not Judas," he said.

Roberto Mancini

The son of a committed Catholic, Mancini's upbringing in Italy was governed by religion and football. Only once did the two clash. Mancini's father, Aldo, took the eight-year-old Roberto to his first Holy Communion, meaning Mancini Jnr was unable to play for his team. At the end of the service, Aldo noticed his son had disappeared. About to apologise to the cleric, the priest cut him short. "I heard the team was 2-0 down so I told Roberto to sneak out and play," admitted the priest.

Tony Pulis

Regularly attending church, Pulis, a Catholic, has always managed to balance his faith and his profession. Back in 2009, he admitted that he goes to confession because "he sins more than anyone".

Theo Rowley