Owen Coyle has gone to great lengths to aid the career of Jason Scotland — but just for tonight, he will be hoping his former charge’s current problems continue for a little while longer.
Back when the Trinidad and Tobago international was still a relatively unknown quantity to all but regular viewers of Scottish football, Coyle — then manager of St Johnstone — helped turn the burly striker into one of the country’s hottest properties.
In two seasons with the Perth club, Scotland topped the goalscoring charts for two successive seasons, which secured him a move to Roberto Martinez’s Swansea City en route to the Premier League. But his story might not have been quite as successful had Coyle not taken him under his wing during difficult times earlier in his career.
“I know Jason well from when I was player-coach at Dundee United and at St Johnstone,” said the Wanderers boss.
“I even played with him there when he was in a bit of a dry spell to try and help him out.
“He is a very good player and a great lad. He scored more than 50 goals for me in two seasons.
“His contract was coming to an end and other Premier League clubs were looking at him but Swansea were keen and I said to Jason I thought it would be best for him to come to England show his qualities.
“I got £25,000 for him at the time. He would have gone for nothing a month later but I was quite insistent that St Johnstone got something.”
Two years later, Martinez paid considerably more to take Scotland with him to the DW Stadium, where he has yet to score a Premier League goal in 21 attempts, nine from the bench.
And while Coyle hopes his luckless run continues, he was just about willing to tempt fate by predicting that the 30-year-old would not remain on a duck for long.
“I’m always loathed to say anything before a game,” he winced. “But he’s a top lad and a top player and I’ve no doubt you’ll see his qualities.”
This is the second time Wanderers have prepared for a game at Wigan this season, after seeing the game called off back in December because of bad weather.
And because both sides have held a game in hand over their rivals at the foot of the table for some time, Coyle admits that there is considerable pressure to take three points tonight.
“Roberto will be the same — we have been waiting to play this game because we have been one behind most of the teams around us for the last couple of months, two on Hull.,” he said.
“If we win it, we go 14th, if Wigan win they climb a bit higher. There is a tremendous incentive for both teams.”
Wanderers have failed to score against the Latics in their last three meetings, and have beaten them just once away from home since their promotion to the Premier League four years ago.
Much has been made of the chances wasted against Tottenham in the FA Cup on Sunday, and in particular beleaguered striker Johan Elmander.
But Coyle insists he will stand behind the under-fire Sweden international in his search for goals.
“We could have been more clinical recently,” he said. “But it would have been a bigger concern if we weren’t making chances, and we have done in every game.
“Johan has been great the last few games and all he needs to do, as simple as it sounds, is score a goal.
“He’s in there at the moment. I have shown faith and kept picking him and I have got no doubt that he will respond to that.
“Sometimes as a striker you can contribute to your team without scoring goals, Kevin Davies is a prime example of that. He scored a great goal the other day but there will be times he plays magnificently without hitting the back of the net because of the job he does for the team.
“They all know because they are in the firing line it’s good to get goals to go with your play.”