How Owen Coyle has transformed Bolton
You can talk about the tactical tweaks and the changes in transfer policy, the studious preparation and the hard work done to shore up of the defence.
But when trying to work out how Owen Coyle has changed Bolton in the space of only 15 months from a team scrapping for their Premier League survival to a side on the cusp of their first FA Cup final since 1958, what really stands out is the 44-year-old's infectious personality and his truly remarkable enthusiasm for the game.
Every time I have interviewed Coyle I have felt energised and invigorated at the end of the conversation. It is impossible not to be caught up in the Scot's obvious lust for life and it is easy to imagine how players who work with him on a daily basis benefit from their proximity to him.
"The motivation of the players when they were growing up was not fancy cars or money but to be a footballer," Coyle told me. "I ask them to put the other stuff to one side and go and enjoy their football and give it everything they've got. For me, enjoyment of the game is absolutely paramount.
"All I ask from my group is that they give everything they can, every ounce of skill and desire to maximise their attributes so that they know when they go to bed that they have given everything they can to reach highest level possible."
Coyle is keen to stress to his squad that football should be enjoyed. Photo: Getty Images
A good example is Swedish striker Johan Elmander, who arrived at the Reebok Stadium from Toulouse for a club-record fee in the region of £10m in June 2008. Elmander endured a nightmare goalless nine months between December 2008 and September 2009, during which time his confidence drained away. Former manager Gary Megson seemed unable to restore Elmander's self-belief, but the Swede has played so well under Coyle that he has been linked with a move to the likes of Juventus and Liverpool when his contract expires at the end of the season.
"I knew Elmander was a top-class player but maybe he needed somebody to believe in him, be positive and know how good he is," added Coyle.
"The players at Bolton are here because they have ability and I want them to show what they can do, not worry about what they cannot do. Together we will work on the deficiencies and try to make them better."
Predecessor Megson had an unhappy relationship with the club's supporters, who thought his team was direct and ugly to watch, something that Coyle says he has tried to address.
"There was a perception Bolton played in a certain way and with a certain style," said Coyle. "We had to try to change that and in terms of our football philosophy we have made a little transition. I'm not saying we play like Arsenal or Barcelona but we have added other dimensions, although we are still not afraid to go to the strikers early and use the strengths we have always had because forward Kevin Davies is the best at what he does."
The Wanderers squad has been invigorated by the arrival of talented young players. Jack Wilshere and Vladimir Weiss both had a spell on loan at the Reebok Stadium last season, while American Stuart Holden, so influential this year until injury ended his campaign, arrived on a free transfer. Defender David Wheater became Coyle's first substantial cash buy when he joined from Middlesbrough for an initial £2.3m in January 2011, while Daniel Sturridge also arrived on loan from Chelsea.
Coyle is a teetotal Christian whose attitude and determination was forged growing up as one of nine children in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. It is hardly a surprise that a strong work ethic is at the core of Coyle beliefs; nor his insistence that to be involved in professional football is a privilege.
"Football is the best game in world and I wish I was still a player, but when the legs give up being in coaching and management is the next best thing," he said.
"Playing football - it is the best job in the world, in fact I would not even call it a job as such. If I was not involved professionally I would be playing five-a-side with you because I love it."
Allied to these qualities and beliefs is a determination to always move forward, to constantly strive to improve. His playing career took him to 12 different clubs in 22 years, including a spell at Bolton in the mid-1990s. He scored a crucial goal for Wanderers at the old Wembley as the Lancashire side won the 1995 Division One play-off final to end a 15-year exile from the top flight.
"I remember the header vividly but I don't have any photos of it or anything like that on the walls at home," said the Scot. "Once something is done you cannot you affect it, only what is in front of you."
Coyle was victorious at Wembley as Burnley manager in 2009. Photo: Getty Images
Coyle turned down three approaches from Scottish Premier League clubs during his first managerial role at St Johnstone but eventually left McDiarmid Park one week before his team were due to play in their first Scottish Challenge Cup final for the unfashionable surroundings of Burnley. Coyle then took the Clarets to the Premier League for the first time after a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United in the 2009 Championship play-off final. That match brought the curtain down on a remarkable 61-game season that saw Burnley come within two minutes of reaching the Carling Cup final and enjoy an FA Cup run that took them to the last eight.
"I believe you can marry it together and have cup runs with good league form but you need to be focused and hope your squad stays intact," added the Bolton boss.
Bolton are currently eighth in the Premier League and take on Stoke in their FA Cup semi-final tie on Sunday at Wembley - a venue Coyle describes as the best football arena in the world.
Coyle's first game as a manager in English football was against Tony Pulis's side, a goalless draw at Turf Moor in late November 2007. The Bolton manager does not buy into the argument that Stoke are a physical, one-dimensional team, instantly reeling off a list of half a dozen of their players that he rates very highly.
"I think a lot of people do a disservice to Stoke," he said. "They can mix and match their game and have invested in their side."
There is nothing but excitement in Coyle's voice as he looks forward to pitting his wits against Pulis, somebody he describes as a genuinely great guy.
One of them will be moving into unchartered territory at the final whistle on Sunday and, given the trajectory of Coyle's managerial career so far, it would not be a huge shock if the boy who watched the Wembley showpiece on television every year ended up a part of it himself.