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Cup run set up Burnley's promotion, says Coyle

Owen Coyle has acknowledged the importance last season's run to the Carling Cup semi-finals had on Burnley's charge to the Barclays Premier League.

The Clarets begin another campaign at Hartlepool tomorrow night no longer the underdog of 12 months ago.

Then, a stuttering victory over Bury paved the way for a memorable run that saw Coyle's men collect the scalps of Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham before a last-gasp Jermain Defoe strike in extra-time allowed Tottenham to claim a Wembley berth at Burnley's expense.

Yet, as disappointed as they were to miss out on a final encounter with north-west rivals Manchester United, Burnley's confidence and self-belief had swelled to such an extent it carried them into the play-offs and out of the Championship.

"There is no doubt the run last year helped to get us promotion," said Coyle.

"The bigger games gave us tremendous confidence and the momentum carried on.

"We had to endure the disappointment of a cruel defeat in the semi-final but by then the lads knew how good they were and the confidence just grew."

Indeed, Coyle felt one of the pivotal moments in Burnley's stellar season came immediately after that Spurs loss, when his side trailed at The Hawthorns to take on another Premier League side in West Brom in the FA Cup.

"We played really well but found ourselves chasing the game," he recalled.

"If we had not gained the earlier momentum and belief we might not have got back in the game but Martin Paterson equalised in injury time.

"That match told me everything about these players. From that moment I knew they would be ready to kick on for the remainder of the campaign."

Burnley went on to beat West Brom in a replay and their rise in status did not finish at Wembley with the Championship play-off win over Sheffield United either.

In the past week, Burnley have beaten both Manchester United and Everton, allowing Coyle to claim bragging rights in an all-Scottish managerial battle with Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes.

Not that Coyle's fondness for the competition is going to prevent him making changes for his first visit to Hartlepool since a friendly outing with Motherwell a few years ago.

Faced with the tricky dilemma of facing Hartlepool just 48 hours after a Premier League meeting with Everton, or pushing the game back another day and reducing preparation time for Saturday's trip to Chelsea, Coyle went for the former option.

It means the likes of Chris Eagles and Steve Thompson will get their chance to impress. The changes should not be viewed as the Carling Cup dropping down Burnley's list of important items.

"The lads who play tomorrow are all bona fide first-team players who will have a big part to play as the season goes on," said Coyle.

"Part of the reason we have done so well over the last two games is how hard the other lads have been working on the training ground. They are pushing the ones who had the jerseys.

"It is frustrating to sit on the bench but we need to get some fresh legs into the team now so these lads will get their chance.

"And the changes do not mean we are showing Hartlepool a lack of respect. We know exactly how tough this game will be."end

Belfast Telegraph


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