Bolton boss Owen Coyle has dismissed all talk of relegation at a club that has been beating the odds in the top flight for more than a decade.
Players leaving, fans deserting, maybe even his own job under threat – thoughts that would depress most are met with a simple response: “That’s all hypothetical.
“We will shape our own fate. We can get something out of every one of the 11 games left. If we do that Bolton will be a Premier League club. This game is the biggest of our season – but every one is after that until we are safe.”
And while Coyle talks with typical belief and defiance the real question is about whether his new-look team can cope with the expectations – but that is met with equal frankness.
Coyle said: “Pressure on the players? That’s what we are in football for. Is it pressure to play in front of your own fans? It should be an enjoyable experience.
“You want to show you can play, you can perform and you know what it means. It’s as simple as that.
“We have our fate in our own hands, it’s all in front of us. We have come through a tough stretch of fixtures, I could go on until I am blue in the face about that. But it will count for nothing if we don’t get the rewards.”
Coyle has suffered in terms of injured players and some ageing stalwarts, but his main asset has been the solid backing of the supporters in a time of change.
He said: “We’ve been consistent, we’ve been up front, we’re never evasive. There is a transparency here. The fans recognise that, they can see what’s going on and have stood by us through thick and thin.”
Mark Hughes has told his QPR players they need at least a point a match from now on to stay up.
Rangers have won just once in 15 fixtures, but after surveying the five-way fight for survival Hughes said: “It’s vitally important we take something out of every game we play now.”
He takes his men to fellow strugglers Bolton on Saturday and warned: “They are the home team and will want to put on a performance for their fans and make sure they’re home form is solid.
“We will try to limit their ability to how we want to play and with the ability I have in the squad, both creatively and the goal threat we have, I feel we will make chances and hopefully we will take some.
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