OWEN Coyle wants to keep emotions in check as the relegation battle builds towards a climactic crescendo.
With tension building at the foot of the Premier League, Wanderers head to Sunderland tomorrow knowing victory could see them leapfrog Wigan and QPR for at least 24 hours, and potentially draw level with Aston Villa.
Tuesday’s stirring victory at Villa Park was a huge step in the right direction for Coyle’s side – but the manager admits nerves are bound to play their part with four games to go.
“There will be nerves, anxiety, whatever you want to call it but the important thing is that we keep our focus,” he said.
“The fans were magnificent again the other night and when they come away from home, because they are all together, they give such vocal encouragement.
“The home support has been incredible but that is over three stands of the stadium.
“When we bring it all together, there’s no doubt it gives you a lift. But equally the players need to give the fans a lift – get rid of that anxiety, and that’s where there needs to be a coming together.”
Coyle’s own emotions spilled over in midweek, with TV cameras picking up his touchline clash with Villa assistant Kevin McDonald.
The Glaswegian kissed and made up with his fellow Scot after the game – but says the altercation shows how much is at stake at this end of the table.
“Ryo (Miyaichi) had been caught and I wasn’t best pleased with it,” he said. “I thought it was a heavy challenge, and then on returning into the technical area there was an exchange of words.
“It happens, it’s the passion of the game. But I think I resolved the dispute.
“Kevin’s a gem of a lad and it shows what it means to everyone.
“When I spoke to him afterwards I managed to sort it out.”
Coyle’s first task will be to assess the walking wounded, with six players nursing injuries that threaten their participation at the Stadium of Light.
Kevin Davies, Chris Eagles, Ryo Miyaichi, Mark Davies, Darren Pratley and Martin Petrov have all reported to the treatment room in the last 48 hours.
“We’ll give them until the last minute but hopefully they can be patched up and get back out there again,” Coyle said.
“The players came through the pain barrier the other night and that’s what we need.
“We have got four games left and everyone of them is a cup final. We knew it has always been in our own hands and the other night was a big chance to make some ground back, maximise our opportunity, which we did, and now we have to do the same at Sunderland.
“There are points in every one of the four games we have left. We need to make sure we get the total we need to keep the club in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, it is likely that a behind-closed-doors friendly will be organised next week for Chung-Yong Lee’s long-awaited return to action. The South Korea international did not feature in the reserve team squad to play West Brom yesterday, but is closing in on a comeback.
“There’s another week’s training ahead and then he’ll be in a position to play some sort of a game,” added Coyle.