JUNE 2009: Owen Coyle’s managerial stock is high having achieved an unlikely promotion to the Premier League with Burnley, a club who had less than half the resources of their main Championship rivals.
He was approached by Celtic, then seeking a new boss to replace Gordon Strachan. Coyle rejected his boyhood heroes to have a crack at England’s top flight.
Seven months later, with Burnley above the relegation zone, he was approached by Bolton Wanderers, then second from bottom in the League and whom he spent three years with during the mid-90’s. This time, he was unable to resist temptation and moved to the Reebok Stadium, kept his new side up whilst Burnley got relegated. Things were looking up at Bolton as they sat in the top half of the table and were about to face Stoke City at Wembley in the 2011 FA Cup Semi Final.
This is where it all started to go wrong for Owen Coyle!
A 5-0 humping by the Potteries began a fall from grace for Wanderers and Coyle himself. The club were relegated the following season and Coyle was sacked in October 2012 after a poor start to life back in the Championship. Since then, he’s had unsuccessful spells at Wigan, Houston Dynamo in America and Blackburn Rovers, and has been out of work since being sacked by Rovers in February this year.
Today, eight years after turning down one of the top clubs in Scotland, Coyle was appointed manager of Ross County!
With no disrespect to the Dingwall side, who’ve contributed a lot of good to Scottish Football since they were elected to the Senior game in 1994, but it is an indicator of how far Coyle has fallen that he’s gone from a man pursued by clubs in the English top flight to one of the bottom six in the Scottish Premiership.
To be fair to Coyle, he has been unlucky in certain jobs. At Bolton, their ridiculous overspending saw them nearly £200m in the red and they would eventually drop into League One as the reliance of Premier League income and parachute payments dried up, leading the club leaning on the verge of administration.
He was only given six months at Wigan, taking over an FA Cup winning side but also one relegated and in huge debt, before being sacked for poor results. The Lactics haven’t prospered since he left and have recently become a yo-yo club between League One and the Championship.
Blackburn were the latest in his tour of North West of England. Champions in 1995, Rovers have been in serious decline under the appalling ownership of The Venky’s, who took over the club in 2010. Their freefall was always likely to lead to being relegated to England’s third tier, it was unfortunate for Coyle that he was the man who took them to the brink before getting his P45, and the inevitable was overseen by Tony Mowbray. In between Wigan and Blackburn, Coyle managed Houston Dynamo for around 18 months and left by mutual consent, the club unhappy with results whilst he wished to return to the UK for family reasons.
Whilst it can be argued that Coyle has had no luck in taking over at clubs in decline, it was, ultimately, his job to get the best out of the players he’d inherited and add sufficient quality to improve the fortunes of those clubs. His results weren’t good enough and fans were unhappy with the job he was doing, which led to Chairmen pressing the panic button.
After a stint on the media circuit, Owen Coyle is back in the managerial hot seat and he will be desperate to rebuild his reputation that’s been tarnished ever since the woeful Wembley performance by Bolton six years ago, when his stock was still high.
Ross County could be a good fit for Coyle. Whilst they don’t have the budgets of the top six sides, or even at the clubs he managed in England, he will get backing by his Chairman Roy McGregor, who admitted this week his club have to pay that little bit extra to entice players to the Highlands. He’s proved this by supporting predecessors Derek Adams and Jim McIntyre, which has led to a sixth season in the top flight and a League Cup victory 18 months ago.
Coyle does have experience of managing in Scotland having been at St Johnstone for over two years before heading south, and has kept in touch with developments north of the border with his occasional media duties and contacts, so he’ll be well aware that he won’t have millions to spend.
His first job will be to ensure that County get back to winning ways, having been without a victory since the opening day of the season, starting at bottom side Kilmarnock. He’ll also need to get goals out of a shot-shy side that have only hit the back of the net five times in the Premiership this season. Once he builds the confidence of the side, he could push the club to higher heights again.
Owen Coyle, Ross County Manager would not have been heard of at the start of the decade, such was his stock that he rejected his boyhood heroes to progress his career in England. Now that it’s a reality, he has an opportunity to build his reputation back up and have County punching above their weight once again.
Failure to do so and ruthless Roy McGregor won’t hesitate to wield the axe again Coyle’s career will continue to slide towards oblivion.