Wanderers come face-to-face with the “one that got away” tomorrow at the Reebok.
Wilfried Zaha, the sought-after Crystal Palace front man, was top of Owen Coyle’s shopping list in January this year as he looked to add goals to his struggling Premier League team.
At the time, the Selhurst Park hierarchy slapped a massive £10million price tag on his man after receiving a bid of around £5m from the Whites, which eventually forced Coyle to look elsewhere.
And it has been a similar case for a number of Zaha’s suitors this summer – with the likes of Southampton, Wigan, Newcastle United and Sunderland all sniffing round the England Under-21 international this summer.
Coyle is convinced the versatile attacker will eventually ply his trade in the Premier League but says there won’t be any sour grapes when he arrives to spearhead Palace’s chase for three points.
“There are a list of admirers and understandably so, he’s a great talent,” he said of the 19-year-old, who is yet to hit the target for his club this season.
“When we tried to sign him last season the Palace chairman put up a price he felt was fair. That’s his prerogative because he’s the one who pays the bills and puts the money up.
“They decided they wanted x-amount of money, which was in excess of where we were.
“I’m not sure whether that was still the case in the summer or not, but talent like his is at a premium and if Palace think he can get better – and they have a few others of that ilk as well – then that’s great.
“It doesn’t surprise me there was lots of interest but Dougie looks after his young players and I’m sure the right time will come where the right move comes his way.”
After a last attempt to sign Blackpool’s Matt Phillips, Coyle eventually had a bid accepted for Watford's Marvin Sordell – a £3m deal that was eventually ratified by the Premier League in the early hours of the morning.
But Coyle insists he had put out bids for all three players in the week leading up to deadline day before admitting defeat on Zaha.
“It wasn’t just that day that we had enquired about the players, we’d enquired about them all the way through the window and in the days running up to deadline day,” he confirmed.
“January is a seller’s dream and when people want to buy – as Bolton have done in the past – you can get away with adding bits on and tweaking the deal to your advantage.
“You have to bear that in mind when you try and do deals at that time of year.”
Coyle has been impressed with the job done by his fellow Scot Dougie Freedman in his 18 months in charge at the London club.
And though Wanderers will go in as heavy favourites on home turf, he has warned his team not to expect an easy ride from the Eagles, who toppled promotion chasing Cardiff last week with an impressive comeback from two goals down.
“I get on very well with Dougie (Freedman) and he’s put together a good side who have been on a decent run,” he said. “I watched them the other week when they went to Charlton and won. They came back from 2-0 down to beat Cardiff last week, so it shows you the quality and the focus they have.
“It’ll be a difficult game and we’ll show Palace the utmost respect. But we have to make sure that our players get to their maximum because we’ve shown that when we get to that level we are a formidable side for anyone to play against.”