Bolton will be without captain Gary Cahill for their fixture against Aston Villa on Saturday after their appeal against his dismissal against Arsenal was rejected by the Football Association.
After last Saturdays match against the Gunners’, boss Owen Coyle seemed fairly upbeat about their chances in overturning the 24-year-olds sending off for a challenge on Marouane Chamakh. But Tuesday’s verdict means Coyle will be without his stalwart for his sides meeting with Villa this week. Over the weekend the decision to hand Cahill a three-game ban has gathered its fair share of attention from former referees, notably Mike Riley, who, according to Coyle, backed him in his decision to appeal against the ruling. The Scot said: “I spoke to Mike Riley, who also felt it was a yellow card. With somebody of that calibre saying that, it reinforced my belief there was a chance it would be overturned.” It was not to be, however, and Bolton will have to seek a replacement for their game on Saturday. Not that one was hard to find.
Andy O’Brien has had a quiet couple of seasons on the bench, and will relish his chance to prove himself to the boss should he fill the gap left by Cahill in the side. After a positive start and over 30 appearances in his first season following a move to the Reebok in 2007, O’Brien’s first team chances have slowly decreased as Bolton’s fortunes have improved. Although a solid 2008/09 won him Bolton’s player of the year award, O’Brien only made nine starts in their 2009/10 campaign, and this season seems to be going the same way. Ditched by Coyle for ball playing centre-half’s like Cahill and Zat Knight, the Irishman’s backs to the walls approach has not fit in well with the new regime. However, in desperate times he has been a figure to be called upon, and has been known to hold on to a lead or two under pressure. Although a regular in sides before the arrival of Coyle, his current boss clearly holds nothing against him, and spoke highly of O’Brien’s ability in a press conference on Thursday: “He had a terrific pre-season and was outstanding against Osasuna. If the truth be told then he was unfortunate to miss out in the opening game”. The Scot then went on to clarify that he had no doubts at all about selecting both O’Brien and keeper Adam Bogdan, who comes in once again for the suspended Jussi Jaaskelainen, for Saturday’s game against Villa: “I’ve got no fears with Andy coming in, like the same with young Adam Bogdan. We believe that we have players in the squad that are capable of playing at this level.”
One thing Coyle will have to clear up before Saturday is who will be selected to lead out the side for their next game. Kevin Davies is a doubt after being sidelined in the early part of the week with concussion, and there are very few players who naturally step into the mould to replace him. The suspended duo of Jasskelainen and Cahill would fit the bill well enough, but without the pair Coyle will have to pick one out of a young squad- most of which have less than 50 caps for the Greater Manchester side. Ricardo Gardener, Sean Davis, Joey O’Brien and Jay Lloyd Samuel also haven’t been able to train this week as Saturday looks like it will come too soon for the Trotters. But the Wanderers boss has insisted he has numbers for their next fixture, and won’t be rushing back any players, regardless their will to play, to risk further problems: “It’s great that we’ve got players who want to win football games and are passionate but I will not take a chance with any of my players’ health.”
Despite their valiant start without a permanent manager, Aston Villa have become unstuck of late, and their injury time nightmare against Stoke has brought everything crashing back down to earth. Going into the game on the back of the loss, Villa will be keen to impress in front of their new boss Gerard Houllier. Whether or not Frenchman’s presence will add pressure to a side that has been allowed to run free of late remains to be seen, but Coyle will be counting on his side to perform if they are to cement a position in the top-half early in the season.