PHIL Brown believes former team-mate Owen Coyle can turn things round at the Reebok – but fears that Wanderers ’ relegation hangover will be a hard one to shift.
Even though the former Burnden Park favourite thinks Coyle deserves more time to put things right after last season’s disappointment, he shares concerns that the Whites have been off the pace so far.
“People are saying to wield the axe after five or six games, it’s ridiculous,” Brown said. “You’ve got to give it time. But at the same time you have to have balance. When has your opportunity gone?
“If you’ve got 10 games gone, and there’s 36 to go, is it time for a change? That’s a decision for Phil Gartside and the board of directors. But where Coyley is concerned, I think he’ll turn it round.”
Brown, who spent a total of 12 years at Bolton as player and coach, reckons his former club have not recovered from falling out of the top flight for the first time in more than a decade.
“Coyley is suffering from the hangover of relegation, I’m afraid,” he said.
“I’ve watched them two or three times this season already and he doesn’t seem to have shaken off the hangover. Blackburn seem to have done it successfully because they’ve flooded the place with a lot of good players and spent a lot of money but Bolton don’t seem to have done that.
“I spoke to Phil Gartside at the British Open at Lytham over the summer and he said ‘we’ve got one of the best squads in the Championship,’ and I believe that.
“It just seems to me that they are harbouring on the fact they have had 12 or 13 years in the Premier League and now all of a sudden the rude awakening of the Championship has hit them in the face and they have to wake up quick.”
Brown pinpointed midfield as the area that has been lacking thus far – and believes Coyle has struggled to replace the combative Nigel Reo-Coker since the former Aston Villa man tore up his contract in the summer after relegation.
“The key players for me are the likes of Reo-Coker, who seems to have hung his boots up and I can’t understand that,” he said.
“The guy was on a very good contract going into his last year and he’s exercised the right to just walk away. I can’t understand that because I think he would have been ideal in that Bolton team and seems to have that strength of character. He’s not the greatest player in the world in terms of technique but I tell you what, he’s got the nous about him and brings the team spirit with him.
“He seems to have the respect of the players but they lost that drive in the middle of the park.”
But it isn’t all doom and gloom – and Brown thinks Wanderers can get back on an upward trajectory provided they find some steel in Sheffield.
“Chris Eagles has started very, very well and scored four in five games, I think,” he said.
“Kevin Davies is scoring goals and holding the ball up well. There are certain positives but that strength of character that pulls you through when times are hard; that seems to be missing at the moment. And when you go to Sheffield Wednesday, I tell you what, they’ll be smarting from losing a local derby against Huddersfield and they’ll be wanting to do something on Saturday.”