OWEN Coyle has warned critics to lay-off Roy Hodgson, even though Wanderers will be looking to turn the screw on Liverpool on Sunday.

With the odds against Hodgson lasting the distance under new owners at Anfield, Whites boss Coyle knows any result his side achieve at the Reebok could have an adverse effect on a coach he rates as one of the best in the game.

Liverpool, battle weary from months of boardroom upheaval, are entrenched in the bottom three after their worst start to a season for more than 50 years.

But while Coyle and his side will be seeking to extend their own impressive start, potentially breaking into the top five with victory, he has urged the Reds not to judge Hodgson until he has had chance to mould the squad in his own way.

“It really is a transitional period over there, so what really baffles and bewilders me is that Roy comes in for so much criticism,” the manager said.

“This is a man who, for me, is an elite coach among the very best in world football.

“He showed the quality he has last year at Fulham and won manager of the year and then within two months, people are saying he’s no good.

“This is a top class manager and given the time, he’ll bring Liverpool back to the heights where they are challenging for trophies.

Hodgson inherited a large squad from Rafa Benitez in the summer but has performed his rebuilding operation with a backdrop of major change, with former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr deposed only shortly before last weekend’s victory against Blackburn.

“It was always going to be difficult,” said Coyle. “Without going into what went on before, he came into a team on a downward spiral because of the way they finished last season.

“He had to get some freshness and that was always going to take time. You don’t come in and click your fingers and everything falls into place, particularly at a club that has always been known for challenging for top honours.

“People have to understand it’s a transitional period, especially with all the stuff going on off the field as well. Any manager craves time and I’m pretty sure that if he’s given it, they will reap the rewards.”

Fernando Torres got back on the goal trail with the winner last weekend, sparking suggestions that the worst of Liverpool’s form is now behind them.

And Coyle is well aware that the victory over Blackburn might have re-ignited tomorrow’s opponents.

“Football changes really quickly,” he said. “From all the doom and gloom that people were trying to perceive about the club – all of a sudden, you get that three points and you’re up and running again. Their sights are now on moving right up into that top half of the table.

“Of course, my focus is on keeping Bolton there. We’re at home and that has been a terrific effort collectively because the fans are really making sure it’s a good place to work in.

“We have to make sure we’re at our best on Sunday and I think, overall, Liverpool will know that they are in for a tough game.”