Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle has made no secret of his desire to continue to work with Daniel Sturridge beyond the end of the Chelsea starlet’s loan spell at the end of the season. While by Coyle’s own admission, such a deal would be unlikely, Sturridge’s seven goals in nine games for the Trotters have been a further example of Coyle’s ability to take a player’s form to new levels, and an eye for talent which has seen Bolton’s reputation as a club enhanced since Coyle’s appointment last year.
Coyle arrived at the Reebok Stadium with his stock raised after guiding Burnley into the Premier League in 2009, 33 years after their last top-flight campaign. Although their stay was ultimately short-lived, many questioned the logic of Coyle leaving the Clarets to join a side below them in the league at the time. However, the opportunity to return to the club where he spent two years as a player was one Coyle could not resist. A fine example to his squad, the manager pulled on his boots, to score a goal for a Bolton XI in a friendly against Cliftonville last year, 15 years after his last Bolton goal as a player – the 44-year-old finding the net with a deft chip from the edge of the area.
One of his early signings, the loan of Arsenal’s young midfielder Jack Wilshere, arrived at Bolton in January 2010. Wilshere made 14 appearances for Wanderers, turning in a string of fine performances that saw Arsene Wenger refuse a request for a further loan spell, opting to push Wilshire into the Arsenal first team – a move which saw Wilshire break into the England setup. The Bolton boss has been praised for what he has given to the careers of young players, with the emergence of the likes of Gary Cahill and Fabrice Muamba under his tutelage. By bringing players in from the fringes of their parent clubs and allowing them Premier League matches in their strongest positions, players like Wilshere and Sturridge have been afforded invaluable experience, rather than limited substitute appearances to fit around more established first team players.
A side known under Sam Allardyce for a physical approach with a squad of experienced and – in some cases – ageing players, Owen Coyle has continued the work to transform the image of Bolton Wanderers. His side sits eighth with three matches left to play, with a squad of younger players playing a more technical brand of football. It is testament to Coyle that Bolton are now becoming the club of choice for the top clubs wishing to nurture their youngsters, to ready them for the demands of challenging for honours at the game’s elite levels. While their FA Cup run ended in a disappointing semi-final defeat against Stoke, the side’s reaction – beating Arsenal in their next game – is a further sign of Owen Coyle’s Bolton looking to end the season strongly, and ultimately taking the club forward to a new level.