A Chelsea striker, con­tro­ver­si­ally poa­ched from a north-west rival made the head­lines again at the wee­kend – this time though, it was 21-year-old sharp shooter Daniel Stur­ridge, rather than the mis­firing Fer­nando Torres. Stur­ridge is cur­r­ently on loan at Bolton, one of this season’s most sur­pri­sing teams, and scored his third goal in three appearances for the Trot­ters in a 2 – 0 win against an abject Everton on Sunday.



Having lar­gely warmed the bench at Stam­ford Bridge since an acri­mo­nious move from Man­chester City in 2009, he is sho­wing a poten­tial allowed only rarely to shine at his parent club. He left City at the end of his con­tract, as new owners brought a glut of players to East­lands, and had his fee set at up to £6.5 mil­lion by a tri­bunal. If his streak con­ti­nues, that will look a snäpp­chen – espe­ci­ally when com­pared to Torres’ £50 mil­lion acqui­si­tion.

If Stur­ridge is cur­r­ently catching the eye though it is as part of Owen Coyle’s wholly impres­sive Bolton team. For his part Coyle is over­joyed to have found the steely cut­ting edge his team desper­ately needed in the form of the eager young striker: That’s why we brought him to the foot­ball club“, says Coyle. We believe he has the poten­tial to improve. I’ve said before, I’ll give him a plat­form and hope­fully, having been a striker I can help him with some of my expe­ri­ence […] He’s cer­tainly enjoying it and long may that con­tinue.“

Andy Cole feels a lot younger than his age.

Coyle is modest about the influ­ence he could have on Stur­ridge. If it is one skill that the impres­sive Scot has shown in his short mana­ge­rial career, it is how to coax the best from players – either extrac­ting a youthful fizz from vin­tage per­for­mers or con­fi­dent sho­wings from pre­cocious youngs­ters. In Coyle’s three-year stint at Burnley from 2007 to 2010, during which he took the side to a League Cup semi-final and pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League, he greatly impressed Andrew Cole, who spent three months on loan with the club: I went to Burnley and spoke to Owen and got a great vibe“, says Cole. He brought the best out of me and made me feel a lot younger than my age.“

At the Reebok, Coyle’s suc­cess has been built on sel­ling a new way of doing things to a squad incul­cated in the Bolton phi­lo­sophy of the last decade. That tem­plate, laid down during Sam Allardyce’s suc­cessful reign from 1999 to 2007, was hugely prag­matic: Be tough to beat, phy­si­cally impo­sing and take advan­tage of set pieces to score. Though Sammy Lee and Gary Megson who fol­lowed All­ar­dyce had a tricky time tin­ke­ring with that format, Coyle has ridden out the tran­si­tion and brought far more enter­tai­ning fare to a sta­dium that was once widely per­ceived as a temple to anti-foot­ball.

Even Bolton stal­warts such as Kevin Davies have bought into Coyle’s vision. He is such a posi­tive person, so com­pe­ti­tive, a real winner“, says Davies. He wants to win at table tennis, head tennis, all the little com­pe­ti­tions we have during the week. That rubs off on players. He wants us to be win­ners.“ Though the thought of the pointy elbowed Davies, a master of the dark arts on the pitch, playing table tennis is a some­what sur­real, his descrip­tion of Coyle sounds authentic. This is a manager who through rain and snow, sits on the bench in a pair of shorts, see­mingly ready to throw him­self on to the pitch to fight for the cause with his players. His knees are inspi­ra­tional.

How are you, Pre­mier League? – Mehr von Titus Chalk »

Along with Stur­ridge, bur­geo­ning players like Gary Cahill (admit­tedly an astute Gary Megson signing) and Stuart Holden have improved rapidly under Coyle. Cahill has won two caps for Eng­land this season, and Holden has been nur­tured back from a Nigel De Jong leg break to become a mid­field dynamo, who prompts Bolton’s best moves and who has made more tackles this season than any other player in the league. Arsenal’s Jack Wils­here, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Bolton also blossomed during his 14-game stint and got to grips with the phy­sical rea­li­ties of playing every wee­kend in the Pre­mier League. He has been a shoo-in for Arsenal this season and made his first start for Eng­land last week.

Nine players’ con­tracts expire in the summer


Coyle’s abi­lity to extract the best from young loan signings is cur­r­ently a boon for Bolton, but may in future prove a neces­sity. The club are in severe finan­cial dif­fi­culty and as they push for a Europa League spot (they cur­r­ently lie eighth, one point behind Sun­der­land in seventh), will be reflec­ting on the shape of the squad they require next season. Last year, the club made losses of £35.4 mil­lion, with their debt rising to an alar­ming £93 mil­lion. Nine players’ con­tracts expire in the summer (inclu­ding some big ear­ners such as Johan Elmander) and chairman Phil Gartside must be swea­ting: Should he offer them expen­sive new con­tracts or poten­ti­ally fight on both home and European fronts next season with a greatly dimi­nished squad? It is an unap­pe­aling decision to have to make and Bolton fans must be con­cerned that such dark storm clouds lurk on the horizon after a richly enter­tai­ning season thus far.

They can though rest assured that as Coyle’s repu­ta­tion as a dia­mond-polisher grows, the elite’s mana­gers will con­tinue to be happy to send players to the Reebok. It might prove slim con­so­la­tion if the club falls apart around him – or if one of the more spec­ta­cular rumours of recent years comes to pass: fol­lo­wing Wilshere’s suc­cessful stint at Bolton, the Bri­tish press spe­cu­lated that Owen Coyle could be the man to fill Arsene Wenger’s shoes when the Pro­fessor’ finally retires. That is cer­tainly an inte­res­ting thought expe­ri­ment but one that falls at the first hurdle: For that Coyle might have to don a pair of trou­sers. And right now, his knees are just too damn powerful.

Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die eng­li­sche Fuß­ball-Kultur auf Deutsch

Folge 26: Mrs Heskey
Ohne zwei­feln, ist Emile Heskey Eng­lands töd­lichste Tor­ma­schine. Seine zukünf­tige Frau Chan­telle Tagoe aber, hat genau angst, dass der Tod sie kriegt. Wegen der Pro­phe­zeiung der Maya, die sagt, dass 2012 das Jahr der Apo­ka­lypse sein wird, hat sie ihre Heirat an der arme Emile ver­schoben. Nach jeden aus­bla­senden Arbeitstag, schafft Chan­telle es noch der Welt­un­ter­gang zu recher­chieren. Wir hatten unsere Hoch­ziet im Tages­buch für 2012 geschrieben“, sagt sie. Aber die Theorie über der Welt­un­ter­gang hat mir richtig beirrt davon! Ich bin wirk­lich pein­lich. Ich glaube an alle diese Sache und ich bleibe zu Hause auf dem Internet, um zu erfahren was pas­sieren könnte und wo am besten alles zu über­leben.“ Sehr sinn­voll Chan­telle – wo steht es eigent­lich, dass die WAGs blöd sind?

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