Manager Portrait – Owen Columba Coyle

Owen Columba (!) Coyle, 43, was born in Paisley, Scotland, but is of Irish descent. He started his senior career as a player at Dumbarton – a club that have their home ground just beneath Strathclyde castle.

The teams nickname is ‘The Rock’. I wonder why. An interesting question would be if they get any paying customers to their matches. It looks like you would get a nice good birds view of a match from up the castle. And the Scots…well – they are not known to overspend.

Anyway. Coyle played there for three seasons as a striker and midfielder – with his brothers Joe and Tommy among others. They played in the first division in 1985 – the year Coyle started playing for them – but then started to drop again. The stadium above was built in 2000 – so Coyle actually never played there. After three seasons he changed allegiance to the bigger, neighbouring club of Clydebank. He scored 36 goals in two seasons there and he was signed for £175.000 in 1990 by the Airdreonians – a club that went bankrupt in 2003. There he scored a hat-trick in his first game and went on to be the best goalscorer in the whole Scottish League system in the 1989-90 season.

So it was not a surprise when Bolton in 1993 knocked on the door to ask for his services. But shortly after Bolton were promoted to the Premier League in 1995 Coyle signed for Dundee United and went back to Scotland. There he scored the winning goal in the play-offs in extra time taking his team to the SPL.  After that he played in many different Scottish clubs before he came to Falkirk and became a co-player manager and he continued to be assistent manager for Sandy Stewart – his now assistant – in Airdre United – the club that were formed when the Airdreonians went bust. Coyle played only one match for Ireland. He came in after 82 minutes in a single goal victory against Holland in a friendly.

That was the story of Owen Coyle’s player career. He was a prolific goalscorer and a hard working player. The type of player Bolton could have use of today, come to think about it. Actually he played a couple of games in the Burnley Reserves team last year as a 42-year-old as well – and he scored in one of them, earning his team the Reserves League title. So maybe he could jump in against Wolves? Nah. His playing days are over. But those games in the reserves says something about the man.

What about the manager Owen Coyle, then? In 2005 he became the manager of S:t Johnstone in the Scottish first league. They won against Rangers for the first time in 35 years and Coyle was named the Manager Of The Month. The club was very close to promotion to the Scottish Premier League in his second year at the helm, but Gretna was promoted by a last minute goal. Sour rhubarbs! Before completing his third year at the club he was signed by Burnley.

In November of 2007 Owen Coyle – by recommendation of Phil Gartside at Bolton – started his work as manager for Burnley. Gartside had just appointed Megson as their manager and Coyle was actually number two on his list. Burnley – in the Championship at the time – was a typical mid-league team. They were number 13 when he came and they ended up as number 13 in the league at the end of season.

Owen Coyle’s second season was a better one. They won over Fulham, Chelsea and the mighty Arsenal in the League Cup and – what’s much more important – secured a spot in the Premier League after winning against the Blades at Wembley.

Owen Coyle’s Burnley was expected to do a Derby in the Premier League. That is to start up slow and play bad in the middle and do a lousy finish of the season. But Burnley broke those expectations immediately by playing very well at home beating established Premier League top teams Manchester United and Everton.

Burnley was hard working but they also played with skill, which baffled many a pundit. Like Stoke the year before they were very strong at home and continued their unbeaten row with victories against Sunderland and Birmingham. But after winning against Hull in the last of October, they didn’t win a match before West Ham in February.

But that was long after Owen Coyle was head-hunted and signed by Bolton. Megson had lost his touch and they looked for their second choice to set things right at the Reebok Stadium. In January Owen Coyle signed for The Clarets and took his staff – including his old manager friend Sandy Stewart and many a Burnley supporters hope of staying in the first tier – with him.

The controversial shift of clubs in mid-season started with defeats against Arsenal but then a win against Blades in the Cup. After that he won against his former team Burnley with a single goal. Everybody thought that Owen Coyle would go on to make Bolton Wanderers a winning team again after the caucious, defensive play by Gary Megson, but the win against Burnley was Owen Coyle’s first and only so far for his new club in the Premier League. At the same time his old club Burnley has done better – winning against West Ham – as I mentioned before.

It is of course not ideal for a manager to go to a new club in mid-season. It takes time to know the players and the way they play. And it takes time for the players to adjust to a new manager and the way he wants them to play. And it shows in the results for Bolton lately. Not a win in the latest five league games – and not a goal.

Is it then time to write Owen Coyle and Bolton Wanderers off?  No, of course not. But I’m a little curious about why he insists to play with a 4-4-2-formation, despite that they leak in the back and seem to be unable to score any goals from the front. But reports from the players say that they like him. Like Mick McCarthy he is a players manager with good social skills. A likeable guy who knows how it is like to be a professional footballer from the inside. The question is, though, if manager Coyle will get his team in order in time to rescue them from relegation?

Hard work is a signum for a player playing in an Owen Coyle team. Can the players of Bolton add up to that? Are enough of them the type of players that manager Coyle wants and can they learn to play his kind of game? Only the immediate future can answer this. And today I – as a Wolves supporter – hope that the question posed will be answered negatively. Owen Coyle has shown in Burnley and S:t Johnstone that – given time – he is a very good manager that can instill the will to win and fight in his players. But the time will soon run out and the Wolves are at the door!



~ by paddytheflea on February 26, 2010.

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