CLARETS boss Eddie Howe isn’t getting involved in the politics of Owen Coyle’s return to Turf Moor – merely focusing on starting the Championship season with a win.
Coyle brings his relegated Bolton side back to the club for a second time since he left for the Reebok Stadium in January 2010.
Many supporters have moved on from the upset caused midway through the season in the Premier League, but Coyle and his backroom staff are still expected to come in for some considerable hostility from home fans, many of whom will never forgive him.
While Howe will welcome the atmosphere created by the return of the man who piloted the club to the top flight for the first time in 33 years, he is only focused on the three points: “I don’t think it’s hard for me to take the politics out of the situation, because I’ve got no direct link to it.
“I’m looking at Bolton the team not anything else, very much focusing on their 11 players and how we can combat them.
“I’ll let everyone else deal with the atmosphere. It’s difficult for me to comment on it really. Owen was here long before I was and did a very good job in getting the team to the Premier League.
“I’ve never met him and never spoken to him. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He had his reasons for going – I just don’t claim to know them or understand them..
“The stuff outside the game is of no relevance to me or my team.
“There are a few players still left that Owen managed, but not many. From my perspective, it’s a new team and we’ve got to concentrate on this.”
One of those players managed by Coyle, indeed described as the photo-fit of the modern midfielder, is Chris McCann, who is rated as doubtful for the game after hurting his ankle in the 3-1 Capital One Cup win at Port Vale on Tuesday night.
Howe said: “I think he’ll be keen to play. He did roll his ankle so hopefully he can come through that, but we’ll only play Chris if he’s 100% fit.
“There’s determination right through the squad, everyone wants to be in the starting 11 for the first game.”
His only other concerns surround Marvin Bartley, yet to feature since the end of last season due to a stress fracture to his ankle, and Keith Treacy, who has missed the last three outings with a groin problem.
Howe said: “Marv’s made really good progress, a lot quicker than what we expected.
“Keith is slightly different because it’s a niggly injury, so we’re never going to quite know what level he’s at, but he’s making good progress as well.”
In the absence of a reserve side, Howe has to arrange friendlies to suit his needs, and both may feature in a behind-closed doors game at home to Celtic next week.
He said: “We have got development games. We had a game against Fleetwood last week, and we’ve got a game against Celtic next week.
“We can arrange games whenever we need one. They will get game time, it’s just up to us to decide when they’re ready to take part.”
Those that do take part against Bolton will face a tough test, according to Howe.
“He said: “It’s a really good test to see where we are. I think the first three games will give us a good idea of how strong we’re going to be.
“A Premier League team in Bolton, who haven’t lost many players from that squad, that was good enough to finish in the top half of the Premier League not so long ago.
“Middlesbrough will always be strong, and Huddersfield have got plenty of money behind them and have brought in several players this summer, so all three will be a good test.”
Howe hopes a fired-up home support will go in his team’s favour, as they look to improve on last season’s home record of seven wins from 23 league games.
He said: “You can use that atmosphere to really galvanise yourselves and your team, and to give a performance that you perhaps didn’t know you were capable of.
“That’s the key to the home support. We want to make it as difficult as we can for Bolton.
“We want to get it rocking if we can to really inspire the lads to perform.
“I think it will be an eye-opener for a lot of the lads, especially the younger guys.
“This is the level and the experience you’ll go through, and you’ve got to be mentally tough and be able to handle it.
“But this is just the start, there’s more to come.
“It’s going to be an exciting season. That’s what really stands out this year in terms of the derby games, and some of the atmospheres at certain games will be outstanding.
“For us it will be a case of placing the same importance on every game, not just the key ones.
“To be successful, we’ve got to be at the same level for 46 games.”
While the fans have encounters with Blackburn and Blackpool to also look forward to, Howe accepts tomorrow’s game stands out because of the added ingredients: “I think it will probably be quite a unique game in that respect, but I’m looking forward to it.”