Date: 3rd January 2010 at 8:48am
Written by:

Burnley beat MK Dons 2-1 in the FA Cup third-round at stadium: mk yesterday but there was only really one conversation amongst Clarets fans, before, during and after this match. This was one hot topic too which was quite appropriate as we all tried to keep warm on a bitterly cold day in Milton Keynes. The discussion centered around one basic question. Would Owen Coyle still be our manager by the time of our next match against Stoke City at Turf Moor next Saturday?

Bolton Wanderers of course sacked their manager, Gary Megson in midweek fuelling speculation in the media that Owen Coyle was their favourite to replace him. Coyle has always been a bit of a hero with Bolton fans. They have idolised him since the time he used to play for them in the nineties. That fact was evident to see when we recently played Bolton at Turf Moor on Boxing Day. Bolton fans have never accepted Megson as their manager and once more boos were heard in the Cricket Field stand aimed against him. Even more remarkable was the fact that these same fans were chanting Coyle`s name in appreciation. Little did we know then this would be Megson`s next to last match in charge of the club and we would soon be fearful of losing Owen Coyle to the club down the road.

As soon as Megson got the sack, the media reported that Coyle was Bolton`s number one target to succeed him. At first Owen Coyle seemed to deny any interest and the Club confirmed no approach had been made. It looked like Coyle was once more going to remain loyal to the club and very much like the time he was linked with a move to Celtic scotch the rumours, get his head down and focus on keeping Burnley in the Premier League. At the time he said:

“It is a fantastic job for someone but my focus is on doing the best against MK Dons this weekend, I`ve had speculation time and again but I`ll focus on the job in hand.”

Yesterday though the media speculation intensified and The Sun newspaper reported that Coyle would make a dramatic U-turn, jump ship and soon be the manager of Bolton. The Daily Mirror also stated that Coyle was close to informing Burnley FC that he wanted to join their Lancashire rivals this week.

The local Bolton News today (Sunday)confirms that Bolton have identified Coyle as their number one target to fill the vacant manager`s spot and want him in place by next weekend`s trip to Sunderland.

Bolton chairman, Phil Gartside knows Owen Coyle well and indeed recommended him to Burnley two-years ago. It is understood he is preparing a bold attempt to poach our manager in what could become a fairly acrimonious affair. There was a report in the Mirror yesterday that Burnley are preparing to report Bolton to the Premier League for tapping-up Owen Coyle. It is illegal under the Premier League rules to approach another manager in the top flight during a season unless the two clubs involved have reached an agreement with suitable compensation being agreed. Burnley FC are still denying that any official approach has been made by Bolton

The bookmakers yesterday suspended betting on Coyle becoming the next Trotters manager so things are beginning to look a little bleak for Clarets fans.

The News of the World suggest the Clarets would require £4m compensation from Bolton should Coyle take up the offer to become their new manager and they also state that Bolton will make a formal approach for the Burnley boss today with Wanderers hoping to rubber-stamp an appointment within 48 hours. The paper evens goes as far as saying that the settlement fee with Burnley is all that stands in the way of a deal.

This is all very bad news for Clarets fans but can it be believed? There is certainly nothing at the moment that gives 100% confidence he will stay at Turf Moor. At the end of the MK Dons match, Coyle did eventually begin to walk over part-way to the Clarets faithful who were cheering him on and making it obvious they wanted him to stay. His body language did not seem to suggest this would be his last game in charge for the Clarets otherwise I think he would have come over to be nearer to the crowd and prolong his appreciation. We were some distance from the technical area and it was a bitterly cold day, so maybe Coyle just quickly wanted to get off the pitch and get warm.

It was also perhaps slightly worrying though that Coyle did not appear in the post-match TV interview. This will be the first time I think he has ever missed one. Sandy Stewart stood in for him in front of the ITV cameras and gave a less than impressive explanation as to why Coyle was not giving the interview. It would appear that Coyle had bombed off to Luton Airport to catch a flight to Scotland to see his family for a belated New Year celebration.

Stewart said: ‘There is nothing to read into this. Owen had to get away to see his family to celebrate the New Year”

It is debatable whether anybody believes this story and all it has done for the sake of staying on for a few more minutes after the match is fuel the speculation that something is going on. Is Coyle media shy now on this issue or was he bombing off to Bolton for talks? These are some of the questions fans are now bound to ask.

Clarets fans have another question too.

Why would Coyle want to go to a club who are equally struggling at the wrong end of the table?

I can think of three main reasons with probably all three being relevant

1. The move could be purely mercenary and done for selfish financial reasons. I guess you can`t blame someone seeking to improve their salary but I had thought Coyle had more integrity than that. He has been a breath of fresh air and has adopted high moral standards in this fickle world of football. If he went purely for the money, I would lose all respect in him not that he would probably care. He certainly wouldn`t care about the plight of Burnley after the mess his leaving could inflict on the club. One that could indeed condemn the Clarets to relegation undoing all the good work he had achieved to date and making a mockery of his earlier statements about getting on with the job at Turf Moor.

2. He has realised that it is going to be a tough battle to keep the Clarets in the Premier League and has been frustrated by the lack of funds available to buy new players in the January window.

Quite simply, Coyle might be tempted by the much bigger budget available to him at Bolton and all things being equal feel he might stand a better chance of keeping Bolton up than Burnley adding to his already impressive CV. This is maybe something our Board should look at and decide once and for all whether their frugal stance is definitely the right one. If they don`t get this right we stand to lose our best asset at the worst possible time with the club looking over their shoulder at the relegation places with no manager.

3. Bolton are just down the road and unlike the Celtic situation, Coyle would not need to uproot his family so if he judges Bolton to be a better bet for survival than Burnley under his guidance, that`s a factor that could strongly sway his decision.

Let`s face it, Bolton`s wish to bring Coyle to the Reebok has more to do with their fans sentimentality rather than any proven ability at Premier League level. They may find his style of play more entertaining and attacking than the one offered by Megson but there is no guarantee he can save Bolton either in a season where Coyle too is experiencing his first in the EPL. It would take some time for Coyle to settle in and he would have to move fast in the transfer window if he was to add to their squad. Would he have time to sort all this out? He knows the ropes at Burnley, he has a plan in place, surely it would be better to see that through at least until the end of the season and then review the situation depending on whether we survive or not.

Would Bolton not be better putting Peter Reid in charge as caretaker manager until the end of the season? He is still based in Bolton and is also a bit of local hero having also played for the club. Reid is on record too of saying he would relish the opportunity. If they still want Coyle in the close season then go for him then rather than wreck our chances of survival now.

If Coyle does go, I know one thing, he won`t be God anymore to me but the Devil and he certainly won`t get any thanks from me. He will just be another footballing manager out for anything they can get. Yes, he may have got us promotion but it will count for nothing if he goes at this vital stage of the season knowing the implications this predicament might have for this club with relegation staring us in the face and no manager. I hope he has more integrity than that. His hollow words about loyalty and having a job to do at Burnley will forever echo in the minds of Clarets fans if he goes now. Sometimes I just wonder why we bother

Just stay Owen please and give me some faith in football.

This article is purely the individual opinion of the Editor and has no bearing on any other Clarets organisation of which he is involved