Coyle: Players must earn place
Owen Coyle has told his players to prove they deserve a place in his team as Bolton look to climb further away from the bottom of the table. After thrashing QPR 4-0 on the opening day of the season, Bolton did not pick up a point in their next six league games and went into last Saturday's derby clash at Wigan sitting in last place. Coyle has limited resources available to him for the game against Sunderland because of long-term injuries to the likes of Stuart Holden, Lee Chung-yong, Sam Ricketts and Tyrone Mears, so his decision to leave experienced duo Gretar Steinsson and Fabrice Muamba out of the squad altogether spoke volumes. The changes worked as Bolton dominated the game and secured a 3-1 victory, lifting them above their opponents, and Coyle is confident his players have taken the message on board. "What we had to do was look through that squad and look to pick the best team available," said the Wanderers chief. "They know how I work. If they're playing well, then they'll stay in my team and there's no doubt the ones that took the field last week put in an outstanding performance. "We need everybody really pushing each other on. This week you could see the ones who just missed out are wanting to get in that team. "What I've said to them is very simple. We like to think we're loyal to a fault with our players and if you get the opportunity to get the jersey then you have to give a big performance to retain it. "It's not managers that put players out of teams, players' performances put them out of the team, so when you get that jersey do everything you can to hold onto it." The fixture list certainly did not do Bolton any favours, with five of their six defeats coming against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. But, having come out the other side, they now have a much less daunting spell, with Wigan and fellow strugglers Sunderland followed by games against Swansea, Stoke, West Brom and Everton. Coyle knows nothing can be taken for granted but he is confident lack of belief will not be a problem at the Reebok Stadium this weekend. "Outside the football quality, I think they showed admirable mental strength, and that's certainly needed in this league, and that's what we need now," he said of his players. "Coming into this group of games, we have to make sure we're ready to go and give our best and go and get those results and the performances with it." Having been the toast of the Premier League for most of his two seasons in the top flight, first with Burnley and then Bolton, facing speculation about his position was something unfamiliar for Coyle - not that he took much notice. "We all know the nature of the beast," he added. "I can't say I was too aware of it. If people had things to say then good luck to them. "I know what I need to do in the job, I've done it for seven years at various clubs, and that's what you do. You do the job to the best of your ability, you make the most of the hand you're dealt. "We knew we had tough games but the disappointment for me was I think we could have performed better in those games. We're not hiding behind it. We had good spells against Chelsea and Arsenal but half a game is not good enough in this league. "I think the first half against Norwich at home, that was a game that at the moment is biting us on the bum because if we'd have done a job then we'd have been sitting here with nine points and in the last 16 of the Carling Cup having played five of the top six in the country and it would be a different conversation."
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