Coyle takes Bolton to new level
Only weeks after his appointment as Bolton Wanderers manager, Owen Coyle fixed his gaze on a banner at The Reebok Stadium that read: "He's Not The Messiah, He's A Very Naughty Boy."
The message, taken from "Monty Python's Life Of Brian", was not the work of Bolton fans unimpressed by Gary Megson's successor. It was brandished by Burnley supporters still nursing an acute sense of betrayal that the man they labelled "God" had made an acrimonious 31-mile journey across Lancashire.
Coyle's status at Turf Moor was cemented by taking Burnley into the Premier League then polishing the town's pride even further with victories against giants such as Manchester United on a thunderous night at the famous old ground.
It was not just the pain of Coyle's loss that made Burnley's fans lash out, it was the knowledge that their fierce rivals and near neighbours had lured away one of the game's most promising young managers.
Coyle has in turn become Bolton's footballing Messiah, taking them from the lower reaches of the Premier League to fifth place after an impressive start to the season.
Kevin Davies scores from the spot against Newcastle - photo: Press Association
Now it is confession time - and the revisiting of a statement that caused huge angst among Bolton fans when I made it at the time of Coyle's appointment.
I stated that I feared the man who made his name at St. Johnstone before moving to Burnley had made a "sideways" move by taking up Bolton's offer, and those same fans (perfectly legitimately it should be said) have been offering me the odd reminder recently.
The logic? I felt Coyle was a manager of such outstanding promise that if he continued his good work at Burnley he would end up attracting much bigger suitors than Bolton, so why make the switch? There was never any doubt about his quality, or indeed the wisdom of Bolton making such an appointment.
The argument still holds good in part because Coyle is doing so well at the Reebok that he will put himself in the frame for any bigger and better vacancies that come along.
But have Bolton or Coyle gone "sideways" since he made his move? Not one bit - it has been forward all the way under this progressive 44-year-old.
Coyle's feet are on the ground as he describes talk of European football as "fanciful", but Bolton's fans have got their heads in the clouds as both Tottenham and Newcastle have been comprehensively beaten in successive home games.
They have had their heads in the clouds before, usually watching the methods employed by Sam Allardyce and Megson, but under Coyle there is a mix-and-match of styles that have married the best of the old with new finesse and his often-stated adherence to a passing game.
And it has all been done without wielding the chequebook of Bolton's publicity-shy owner Eddie Davies. Coyle has not spent big, but he has acquired wisely and improved vastly on what Megson left behind.
Kevin Davies remains the central figure around which Bolton revolve, but the transformation in Johan Elmander is perhaps the most surprising aspect of their renaissance. The Sweden striker, who hung like a £10m millstone around Megson's neck, has been a cornerstone of Coyle's revival.
The goal Elmander scored in the win at Wolves demonstrated such sleight of foot, movement and awareness of time and space in the penalty area that it was barely credible when set alongside his previous struggles.
Coyle gives his reaction to Bolton's win over Newcastle
Another Megson signing, Chung-Yong Lee, continues to flourish and Bolton are now a far more attractive proposition than in the past. Megson clearly had an eye for a player, but Coyle's trick has been to get the best out of them.
For further insight into his success, I spoke to former Bolton Wanderers manager and expert BBC analyst Jimmy Armfield, who has been a regular at The Reebok this season.
He told me: "I thought Bolton showed real signs under Owen Coyle last season and it has continued this season. They have got a nice balance in midfield. I like the American Stuart Holden, who is a really important player.
"They have Lee and Matt Taylor on the flanks, with Holden and Fabrice Muamba in the middle. Muamba is more of a holding player and a good athlete, so it all balances itself out.
"Gary Cahill is also important at the back, but Kevin Davies is the most important one of all. He is good on the ground and in the air and has a real knack of spotting danger. People talk about the physical side of his game, but he can play and has a really good temperament.
"Elmander has come on so much as well. He was raw before, but he is playing to his best attributes now and has got a lot of goals this season."
The glue knitting it all together, however, is the manager with the fierce work ethic and a boundless passion that has transmitted itself to Bolton's players, as well as a set of supporters who appeared to have fallen out of love with the game under the Megson regime.
Armfield added: "I am really impressed by Coyle's enthusiasm. The secret for any manager, and I think it's the same with Ian Holloway at Blackpool, is to have the knack of motivating players and taking them along with what you want.
"Owen seems to genuinely believe in himself. He had success at St. Johnstone, success at Burnley and it was sad when it ended with a sour taste, and now he is doing well at Bolton.
"He loves the game and you can sense that by just listening to him. He talks 20 to the dozen about the game and does it with real passion and enthusiasm. Wherever he has been he has been reasonably successful and I can see Bolton finishing in the top half of the table this season, which for a club in a Lancashire town would represent a good achievement."
BBC Sport's Alan Hansen is another Coyle admirer, telling me: "He has married Bolton's old and new styles together well. People talk about the long ball and the short ball, but the simple truth is that it is all about the right ball. I think Owen understands this and does not restrict himself tactically or when it comes to pattern or style of play.
"He has integrated two methods and made Bolton a more potent team, and one that is more difficult to play against. It is always easier to combat a team when you know they are going to play in one certain style, but Owen has shown it can be varied and the results are there for all to see.
"Owen has also coaxed the best out of players who had struggled before he got there. Elmander is the prime example. He was distinctly average last season, but Owen has got him and the rest of the team playing with real confidence."
Such was Coyle's standing at Burnley that a local butcher delivered the mighty accolade of naming a sausage after him. If he continues his success story at Bolton the rewards could be even greater.