Summer of discontent haunting Bolton

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If Owen Coyle had known the repercussions of Stuart Holden chasing down a lost cause against Manchester United in March this year, he might have given the gutsy American some shrewd advice.

Following Lee Chung-Yong's overhit pass, Holden lunged for the ball with Jonny Evans, and missed. Evans didn't.

The Northern Irishman may have be sent off and missed three games, but for Holden the punishment for genuine desire was far greater, six months on the sidelines.

The incident sparked a remarkable downturn in Bolton Wanderers' fortunes. Sixth before the trip to United, above Merseyside pair Liverpool and Everton, many had predicted a European birth for Coyle's stylish Trotters, with an FA Cup semi-final also on the horizon.

However, very little of what was expected materialised, including at Old Trafford. Down to 10-men and chasing the title, United struck late on, sparking a run of just two wins in Bolton's last 10 games of the season, including a 5-0 thumping in the FA Cup semi-final against Stoke City.

The club's exploits in the FA Cup, in getting to Wembley, masked the club's late season slump, and their pre-season fortunes didn't improve matters.

The departure of Johan Elmander, who endured his best scoring season at the Reebok Stadium, and Matt Taylor was compounded with injury to another of Coyle's star turns, Lee.

The South Korean's usually adept touch, which let him down at the Theatre of Dreams in March, again went awol, an error which resulted in a late challenge from Newport County's Tom Miller.

The severity of the hit means the 23-year-old will miss the entire season. Like with Holden, Coyle was left rueing his player's competitive spirit.

With the season now having started, the news hasn't improved for Coyle.

After six games, Wanderers find themselves rock bottom of the Barclays Premier League, with the club's home form a particular concern, with three defeats in as many games.

The return of Holden was perhaps the only shining light for Bolton in the midst of a miserable season, with a full 90 minutes under his belt at Villa Park in the Carling Cup.

But if Bolton's start to the season was teetering on the edge of a disaster, news of a further blow to Holden, which will see him miss another six months, could be a knock-out blow.

While Coyle will be left reeling over an injury crisis at Bolton, he'll be keen to turn around his side's current form, which has seen them lose four on the spin in the league.

The style of play of Lee, Holden and Elmander was very much a blueprint for Bolton's emergence in the division's top six. With Kevin Davies proving the anchor at the top end of the pitch, the trio could feast off the service provided by the England international.

The form of Elmander in-particular was proof of Coyle's influence. Ineffectual during Gary Megson's spell in charge, mainly due to his poor ability to adapt to his style of play, he thrived under Coyle's passing game.

His goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers was proof, if you needed it, that the Swede, even at 6 ft 2in, was more than capable with the ball on the ground, hence it was no coincidence that in his first full season in charge, Elmander thrived.

The problem, is that Coyle is striving to play the same way, and the player's he's brought in to replace those departed or injured aren't as able with the ball at their feet.

At times, the club have notably been going more direct, and who could blame them, keeping it simple when things aren't going right is what any good manager would endorse. But it's just not working.

At the back, Gary Cahill, who Coyle might say in hindsight should have been sold during the summer, looks no-where near his reported £17 million valuation.

In addition, without the likes of Holden and Lee, who keep the ball effectively frustrating the opposition, Bolton's defence is being put under pressure with more regularity, suddenly they're the ones chasing.

Finally, bar the trip to Queens Park Rangers on the opening day, the club's fixture list hasn't been kind.

Trips to Liverpool and Arsenal have sandwiched the visit of Manchester City and Manchester United, and coupled with defeat to Norwich City, it's been a far from easy start for Coyle's men.

Despite not being one for placing each Premier League side in my annual predictions, I always felt, given the injuries, and the new recruits, Bolton were destined to finish 14th.

After the trip to Chelsea, the club have until January before facing any of the big boys again, fixtures which are spread over seven weeks. Happy New Year.

Condemning Coyle's side to a relegation battle this season may be too soon, however, the club have to take advantage of their Autumn relief if they're to rise from the bottom.

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Bolton Wanderers
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