Wheater gets his chance in Knight's absence

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The Independent Football

Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, believes David Wheater will be a more than able replacement for Zat Knight after confirming the defender did suffer knee ligament damage in Sunday's win over Everton.

The 30-year-old sustained the damage to his right leg in a last-ditch tackle on Victor Anichebe in the first half of the 2-0 victory and Coyle confirmed he expects Knight to be missing for between four and six weeks.

Coyle said: "It's not as severe as we first thought but certainly bad enough to keep him out for a period of time. There's severe swelling in the area so I think we'll know better in seven to 10 days when that goes down.

"It's a terrible loss, first and foremost for Zat, because he's played every game for me since I came to the football club over a year ago."

The major consolation for Coyle is he has a ready-made replacement in Wheater, who joined the club last month from Middlesbrough and came on for Knight against Everton. "When somebody receives an injury, it opens the door for someone else," said Coyle. "David's stepped into the breach and he's showed the quality we believe he has. That's why we brought him to the football club."

Wheater turned 24 yesterday and, like his new centre-back partner Gary Cahill, is considered one of England's most promising defenders. Coyle added: "They have tremendous mobility, they have real desire, they're very young and they'll continue to get better. We were excited with the signing of David Wheater but he knew, given the partnership that Gary Cahill and Zat Knight had, that he was going to have to be patient and bide his time until he got his opportunity. We have real belief in him and it will be up to David, now that he's got that jersey, to do everything he can to hold on to it."

Wheater joined Chelsea loanee Daniel Sturridge in arriving at the Reebok Stadium last month, strengthening a squad that had been tested to the full by injuries. Although Sturridge, who has scored three goals in as many games for his new club, is cup-tied for tonight's FA Cup fourth-round replay against Wigan, the extra numbers mean Coyle is able to rotate some of his players for the DW Stadium clash.

The significance of Sunday's result was overshadowed by the reaction of Everton boss David Moyes, who declared his team's performance the worst in his nine years in charge. Coyle felt his side were not given enough credit, saying: "I know there's been a bit made of Everton being poor on the day, and by David's standards they probably were, but I think you have to give tremendous credit to my players."

Coyle welcomed yesterday's news that 22-year-old midfielder Mark Davies has signed a new four-and-a-half-year deal, keeping him at Bolton until the summer of 2015. He said: "Mark was already under contract but what this shows is that we are trying to build a club for years to come."