Owen Coyle faces the most critical four-game spell of his managerial career, amid mounting pressure to lift Bolton out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone before the next international break.
The Bolton manager is reeling from six straight league defeats but can count on boardroom sympathy over a fixture list that has pitted him against both Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Patience will begin to wear thin, though, if he fails to make the most of a less daunting run between now and the next round of internationals next month.
Bolton follow Saturday’s visit to fellow strugglers Wigan with games against Sunderland, Swansea and Stoke, and an increasingly anxious Phil Gartside will launch an urgent review of his side’s failings if they are still in the bottom three after that.
Though Bolton’s chairman is confident Coyle can stop the rot, his overriding concern is ensuring his club retain their Premier League status. He is acutely aware of the financial implications of relegation and will not allow loyalty to cloud his judgment should Bolton remain in trouble.
Mindful he will be under close scrutiny over the next four games, Coyle backed himself to ride the storm, starting at the DW Stadium.
‘It’s the nature of football that confidence can take a dent after a few defeats, but I firmly believe we can win the next group of games and rise up the table swiftly,’ he said.
‘No-one gets hurt more than I do when we lose, but I can cope with that. No-one ever expects a smooth ride when you go into management. You’re in the wrong game if you want it to be plain sailing all the time. You are going to be tested, and I fully accept that being in the Premier League means pressure every week.
‘It’s how you handle it, and we have had a good couple of weeks since the City game. There has been an intensity from the players that I hope they will take with them on to the pitch at Wigan.
‘This is huge for both teams, because we are desperate to improve our position and Wigan know we can overtake them with a win.
‘We were favourites for relegation when I took the job, but it’s not enjoyable being down there. The sooner we get away from there, the better, and this is our chance over the next few weeks.’
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