Monday, January 04, 2010

Why Bolton, Owen?

I have to say, both as a football fan generally and a Lancastrian one in particular, that if it actually comes to pass, this story surprises me greatly.

Why on earth would Owen Coyle - an unqualified success as manager of Burnley, a club he steered into the Premier League last May - want to swap the hot seat at Turf Moor for the one at the Reebok Stadium as manager of Bolton Wanderers?

Whilst Bolton is a far bigger town than Burnley, the Trotters' (Bolton, to the uninititated) fan base is not much bigger than the Clarets', given the proximity to Bolton of the two giant Manchester clubs.

Furthermore, the Trotters are also in a worse league position than Burnley right now and therefore, theoretically at least, at greater risk of relegation to the Chumpionship.

More unusually still, it is widely known that following his success in returning Burnley to the top division of English football for the first time for more than thirty years, Coyle, a Glaswegian, was offered the manager's job at Celtic, an opportunity he turned down to guide the Clarets into the Premier League.

Let's just pause there for a minute.

Owen Coyle, a sensible, well-spoken, intelligent, tee-total Glaswegian Celtic fan turned down the chance to manage the club he supported as a boy, to remain loyal to Burnley. He chose to stay in Lancashire, battling against what were then (and still are) steep odds to keep a mill-town club with average home gates around the 20,000 mark, in the English Premier League, rather than assume command of one of the biggest clubs in these islands, with a virtual guarantee of Champions League football every year, to say nothing of Scottish League and cup titles and the unswerving loyalty of 55,000 fans every week.


The only explanation I can come up with are that Burnley matched the salary on offer in Scotland, plus Coyle's commendable loyalty and his desire to compete week in and week out against the best teams in the country - not something on offer in Scotland, it has to be said. It might also be the case that as a relatively young man, he has a young family who are settled in their schools and together with his wife, he chose (sensibly) not to uproot them unnecessarily.

But why consider a move to Bolton, and why now?

Bolton, Burnley, Wigan and Blackburn Rovers, the four 'small' Lancashire Premier League clubs are all much of a muchness, it seems to me, in terms of their potential, although I did tip the Clarets for relegation at the start of the season.

Unless I'm missing something here, such as Burnley's chairman refusing to back him in the transfer market, or worse, planning for relegation, I can't see what a shrewd and excellent young manager like Owen Coyle has to gain by moving the twenty miles or so from Burnley to Bolton.

I suppose we may find out, if and when he holds his first press conference as manager of the Trotters, but until then, I'm scratching my head, frankly...

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