Owen Coyle will confirm his reputation as the best young manager in Britain if Bolton Wanderers reach the FA Cup final at Stoke’s expense.Coyle, 44, made his name in Scotland with St Johnstone, where he reached the semi-finals of the League Cup and Scottish Cup.
He took over at Burnley in November 2007, guiding the team to English Premier League promotion via the Championship playoffs in his first full season in charge.
Coyle moved to Bolton in January 2010 and secured the club’s top-flight status by finishing 14th.
Their transformation under Coyle this season has been impressive.
Stalwart Kevin Davies has formed an effective partnership with Sweden international Johan Elmander in attack, supplemented by the signing of Daniel Sturridge on loan from Chelsea.
South Korean Lee Chung-Yong and USA international Stuart Holden have impressed in midfield, although the latter has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.
Gary Cahill’s performances in defence have earned him full international honours with England and made him one of the standout centre-backs in the Premier League this season.
Bolton are eighth in the table, just behind traditional heavyweights Everton and Liverpool.
After beginning their Cup campaign with a third-round victory over lowly York City, Bolton have beaten the likes of Wigan, Fulham and League Cup winners Birmingham to reach the last four of the FA Cup.
They must overcome more Premier League opposition in the shape of Stoke City if they are to reach the final, where one of Manchester United or Manchester City will await.
While not yet mathematically safe from relegation, Stoke are 12th in the table and appear set for a fourth consecutive campaign in the Premier League next season.
They have beaten Championship and League One high-flyers in the form of Cardiff and Brighton respectively, as well as Premier League opponents Wolves and West Ham to reach the semi-finals.
The two teams have one victory apiece from their league meetings this season, with Bolton winning 2-1 at home in October and Stoke coming out on top 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium in January.
As well as Holden, Bolton will be missing fullback Samuel Ricketts from the regular line-up for Sunday’s match at Wembley Stadium.
Stoke are without defenders Danny Higginbotham and Abdoulaye Faye, together with season-long absentee Mamady Sidibe.
On-loan striker John Carew is in doubt with a back problem.
Bolton won their last match 3-0 at home to West Ham United, while Stoke went down 3-2 at home to Tottenham Hotspur.
It is the fourth time Stoke have reached the semi-final stage of the FA Cup, but they are yet to reach a final.
Bolton meanwhile have lifted the trophy four times in their history, but the last triumph was back in 1958.
If Coyle can take Bolton all the way and emulate that feat, it will not be long before one of the country’s biggest clubs come calling.