A striker in his playing days, Owen Coyle has sympathy for Johan Elmander. But hard work alone will not be enough to save Bolton or the Swede at the end of the season. Strikers are judged on goals and as the club's £8.2 million (Dh47.2m) record signing - costing Bolton more than Nicolas Anelka - Elmander has been under extreme pressure to deliver.
When he scored on an encouraging debut against Stoke in August, 2008, Gary Megson, the former manager, claimed he would be a bargain as Toulouse originally wanted £22m. Just eight more goals followed and it proved contributory in Megson's departure. His replacement Coyle has persisted with Elmander in the hope that the Sweden international will regain confidence and show the form that prompted interest from Marseille and Hamburg in January.
His work-rate has not been questioned and he was impressively industrious against Tottenham in Sunday's FA Cup fifth round draw. But with Gary Cahill, the injured defender, Bolton's top scorer with seven, Coyle needs goals as well as graft against Wigan tonight when the relegation-threatened Lancashire neighbours fight for three precious Premier League points at the DW Stadium. Teammate Matt Taylor said Elmander might need to be "selfish" to end his worries and remain at the Reebok.
"You don't become a bad player overnight. Johan is an extremely talented footballer who cost a lot of money," said Taylor. "You don't move for those sums unless you are talented. "Johan is his own biggest critic, but I've said to him that he has got to shoot more. He's too nice as a striker and he's got to be more selfish." Elmander has scored just four times this season with two in the league at Aston Villa and Wolves; the latter back in December.
Goals, though, are always harder to come by for teams near the bottom. Wigan have a similar problem and Elmander looks prolific in comparison to Jason Scotland. One FA Cup goal since his summer move from Swansea has left him a target for disgruntled supporters. Adapting to the top flight from the Championship is not easy and Scotland's plight is a warning for Victor Moses, who joined Wigan from Crystal Palace last month.
The precocious youngster, 19, and the Bolivian Marcelo Moreno are in line for a first start against Bolton. Roberto Martinez's side, without a win in six games, have had the luxury of a weekend without a match and Gary Caldwell said: "It's given us an opportunity to rest, take stock of where we are and think about what we need to do in order to progress and start winning games. We have to make sure the rest has given us a boost and that we can attack the game right from the off."
@Email:email@example.com Wigan v Bolton, midnight, Showsports 1