Bolton Wanderers’ manager Owen Coyle’s declaration that any party interested in his England defender Gary Cahill should make themselves known before Monday is a bold move from the highly-rated boss. With Arsenal known to be in the market for a centre-back, and Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur also rumoured to be interested, Coyle has taken a proactive measure in an attempt to end the saga that has quietly rumbled along all summer.
With Cahill remaining a Wanderers player for the foreseeable future – unless one of the trio of clubs in pursuit tempts Bolton with a substantial offer this weekend – Coyle can focus on adding to his current squad. A plethora of signings have already arrived at the Reebok Stadium. Coyle returned to his old club Burnley for full-back Tyrone Mears and winger Chris Eagles, while midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker joined on a free transfer following the end of his contract at Aston Villa while Darren Pratley did the same after leaving Swansea City. Bolton have been a common club in the gossip columns, with Birmingham City striker Cameron Jerome, Craig Bellamy, the unwanted Manchester City forward, and Spurs’ Robbie Keane all frequently linked. The abundance of strikers mentioned in connection with Coyle’s outfit confirms that the manager is searching for a replacement for Johan Elmander, scorer of 12 goals last season who has left for Galatasaray on a free transfer.
Elmander is not the only prolific goal scorer from last season in need of accounting for by Coyle, as the eight goals – in 12 games – of Daniel Sturridge have yet to be replaced. Of course, the ideal replacement for Sturridge would be Sturridge himself, but the dynamic striker may get the chance at Chelsea his talent deserves. If Andre Villas-Boas does decide to let Sturridge leave on loan there will be a long queue for his services, but the excellent half-season spent by Sturridge at Bolton would put the Wanderers in pole position. A striker must be considered a priority for Coyle, however, with only Robbie Blake, Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic at the club following Elmander’s departure. Sturridge linked up well with the burly Davies last season at a player in that mould – which both Bellamy and Keane roughly are – could reap similar rewards. Sturridge’s undoubted potential would, however, place him at the top of Coyle’s wish list but with the player taking a full part in Chelsea’s pre-season preparations, Coyle may be forced to look elsewhere.
The other areas of Coyle’s squad are looking in decent health. Midfield has been bolstered with the signings of Reo-Coker, Pratley and Eagles, with the former pair adding a bustling presence that should compliment Stuart Holden and Fabrice Muamba, and the latter a tricky right-sided addition to balance the flying left-winger Martin Petrov and a replacement South Korean star Chung-Young Lee, ruled out for nine months with a broken leg. Pratley, capable of late surging runs into the penalty area to connect with crosses pulled back, will also deputise for the injured Holden until the United States midfielder is fully recovered from the nasty cruciate ligament injury which ended his season early. In defence, as long as Cahill is present Bolton have a defender the envy of most other teams in the division, a player capable of playing at the very highest level. Bolton will hope Cahill has the loyalty – or perhaps the patience – to wait and see if he can reach that level under the management of Coyle, but if not, a string of Premier League sides are already lying in wait.
Tyrone Mears DEF, Chris Eagles MID – Burnley, joint fee £3m
Nigel Reo-Coker MID – Aston Villa, free
Darren Pratley MID – Swansea City, free
Ali Al-Habsi GK – Wigan Athletic, £4m
Matthew Taylor MID – West Ham United, undisclosed
Joey O’Brien MID – West Ham United, free
Johan Elmander FWD – Galatasaray, free
Craig Bellamy FWD – Manchester City
Robbie Keane FWD – Tottenham Hotspur
Cameron Jerome FWD – Birmingham City
Daniel Sturridge FWD – Chelsea