No hard feelings over Vidic, insists Coyle

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The Independent Football

The Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle is adamant there has been no lasting damage to his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson after their spat earlier this week.

Following Bolton's 4-0 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday, Coyle complained of a "terrible challenge" from Nemanja Vidic on Johan Elmander. The Bolton striker was floored by an elbow from the defender that left him with blood pouring from a head wound which required six stitches.

That prompted a sharp riposte from Ferguson, who said: "What is the old saying about people in glass houses? When Nemanja Vidic came off at half-time he had a lump on his head the size of an egg, his cheek was swollen and he had a black eye."

Coyle, who had eulogised about Ferguson being "the best manager in the world, and a role model for anybody in football," before the game, insists he and his fellow Scot have not fallen out.

Asked if he had spoken to Ferguson since, Coyle said: "To be honest, I don't know why I would hear from him. We sat and spoke after the game, as we always do, and that was it. What happened, happened and you move on. Whatever anybody wants to say is up to them. The game was last week and for me it's finished with. I've moved on. You get nothing out of looking back at what happened last week. It won't affect anything now. Saturday night was closure on it."

Elmander has at least been cleared to play ahead of tomorrow's Premier League meeting with Aston Villa at the Reebok Stadium. And Coyle is grateful his forward, who has scored just five goals for Bolton all season, has suffered no lasting effects. "He had six stitches and we had to nurse him a little bit at the start of the week," Coyle added. "But he is fit to play, available, and I'm sure he will look to do his best."

A doubt, though, hangs over defender Paul Robinson who missed the United game with an ankle injury. Coyle said: "We're hoping he will train at some point ahead of the game on Saturday. He'll certainly have to to be in contention, so we'll look at that one."

Fellow defender Gretar Steinsson is available after he sat out the loss to United through suspension following his red card in the 2-0 defeat at Everton a week earlier.

Coyle still has five key players out with long-term injuries in Stuart Holden, Chris Basham, Gavin McCann, Sean Davis and Joey O'Brien.

Meanwhile, Brian Laws insists any manager would have found it difficult picking up the baton at Burnley after Coyle left to join Bolton. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager has seen his new team take only four points out of a possible 36 and they are facing a battle to avoid a swift return to the second tier. Next up tomorrow are Manchester City, a team chasing a Champions League slot, but Laws is determined to stop the slide.

He said: "I always knew it was going to be a difficult job. Anyone coming to the club would have found that. It wasn't as if the team was on a winning streak. They hadn't won in nine games. It was tough for the players as well. They had the mentality of winning matches regularly last season.

"But they have been superb and are pushing as hard as they can. We have not had a lot of luck on our side. It is a cruel world in the Premier League where mistakes are punished. It is hard when you put in a lot of effort and a lot of work and the players have done exactly the same and they don't get their just rewards."

Laws believes Steven Caldwell's energy and drive could galvanise the team in their bid to beat the drop. The club captain will be part of the squad to face City following a lengthy absence with groin and abdominal problems. The 29-year-old proved his fitness with a full game for the reserves on Monday and is eager to get his career back on track.

Laws said: "Steven has had a full game in the reserves and it just shows the manner of him, he has declared himself fit for Saturday and is ready to go. He wants to play and that's encouraging from my point of view. It is great he wants to be part of the team."