Coyle's plan of action
A "sideways move," as Burnley chairman Barry Kilby called it, or a switch to a club with greater resources and a more modern ground, as Owen Coyle described it? No matter which seems truest, his decision to leave Turf Moor for the Reebok Stadium is, in one respect, a step down: two points and four places down the Premier League, to be precise. With his new club in danger of relegation, Coyle has a short space of time to accomplish a great deal. These may be his top ten objectives:
1) Start Well
It won't be easy. Coyle's first four league games include a double header with Arsenal and a trip to Liverpool, plus an emotionally charged reunion with Burnley. The congestion at the foot of the Premier League table means defeats would not cast Bolton adrift, but the momentum gained by early victories and an immediate endorsement of the new regime could be priceless.
2) Excite everyone
Chairman Phil Gartside used the word "infectious" to describe Coyle's enthusiasm. It would be echoed by many at Burnley, despite the rancour caused by his departure. Coyle enthused an entire club; it is a reason why previously unexceptional players won promotion to the Premier League and why Turf Moor became such a hostile venue for visitors. In comparison, negativity has been a constant at Bolton. Coyle's popularity in his playing days should guarantee a better reception than Gary Megson received. Stimulating sufficient supporters to fill more of the seats is a task, along with galvanising the players he has inherited.
3) Improve the home form
It may be the chicken-and-egg question at the Reebok Stadium. Which came first: the poor atmosphere or the poor form? Both, to some extent, can be attributed to Megson's presence, but Wanderers' record of two home wins is the worst in the division. Cliché has it that relegation-threatened sides' fate is determined by their record on their own turf. That would bode well for Burnley, brilliant in their own back yard under Coyle. Now he has to replicate that in Bolton's nine remaining games at the Reebok.
4) Play better football
Being both direct and defensive were among the criticisms levelled at Megson, while the squad he assembled hardly appears suited to Coyle's more purist and progressive methods. Playing passing football proved a failure when Sammy Lee attempted it in 2007, yet the regulars at the Reebok have craved an increase in aesthetic appeal as well as an upturn in results. But changing the style of play can be dangerous, as Lee can testify, and much of Coyle's budget may have to be committed to technical players with more invention and imagination if he is to ensure a rapid and radical overhaul.
5) Find a leader
One of Megson's regular complaints was that, since Kevin Nolan joined Newcastle, too few of his players were vocal enough. While Kevin Davies has the armband, his is a quiet brand of captaincy. Coyle is used to having louder leaders such as Steven Caldwell and Graham Alexander. A new skipper may be required.
6) Decide on Davies
Davies poses a dilemma in other respects. Coyle is used to forwards with greater mobility and a lesser aerial presence, Davies is accustomed to and equipped for a more abrasive style of football than his new manager prefers. Given Sam Allardyce's search for strikers 15 miles away, could Bolton's former manager and current captain reform their alliance at Ewood Park?
7) Defend better
This may be the toughest part for Coyle. While Bolton are the only side without a clean sheet in the Premier League, Burnley's defence has been breached more often. A manager whose former charges conceded, on average, twice a game and who devoted his playing career to scoring goals doesn't appear the best qualified to solve this particular problem. That Megson only bequeathed him one reliable centre-back - albeit an outstanding one in Gary Cahill, who has made the third highest number of clearances and the second most blocks in the division - compounds it. Zat Knight and Danny Shittu rank among Megson's least distinguished signings. A new face may be required. Once again, Coyle's conviction that Bolton have always backed their managers in the transfer market could be tested.
8) Make them fitter
Just 13 of the 36 goals Bolton have conceded have come in the first 50 minutes of games, while 13 points have been squandered from winning positions. There are plenty of examples of leads being lost in the second half, including the final two matches of Megson's reign, against Burnley and Hull. A fitter side would be less likely to buckle in the closing stages of matches.
9) Sign Jack Wilshere
Arsenal's teenage winger is available on loan and, before Coyle left Turf Moor, Burnley were expected to bid. While West Ham may provide competition for the prospect, it is worth remembering that Arsene Wenger has loaned Coyle players before and a shared ethos means the Arsenal manager should be well-disposed towards an inquiry from the Glaswegian. Moreover, recruiting Wilshere would add flair to a squad that lacks it and aid in the transformation of Bolton from attritional to entertainers.
10) Keep Bolton Up
Feelgood factors can disappear rather quickly and managers' authority can be undermined in the space of a few games. While the long-term prognosis for Bolton is brighter under Coyle than it has been at any point since Allardyce left, the relegation of an established Premier League club would provide a black mark on an otherwise impressive CV. Whether a Bolton crowd who can be accused of harbouring delusions of grandeur, and who appear to believe their natural place is in the upper reaches of the top flight, would forgive him may ultimately be instructive.