The Coyle Identity

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The fanzine editor in me has been playing to the crowd this week throwing out sarcastic comments aplenty about our recently departed manager. The humanist in me sees it very differently however and I do feel quite sorry for Owen Coyle in a way as well.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry he’s gone given the widespread stories of a poor training regime and player alienation coupled with poor performances, excess cronyism with numerous agents and media cohorts like Alan Nixon not to mention a shot shy attack and an inability to get a decent squad playing with any kind of consistency or cohesion which seemed to actively get worse by the game.


But something about it just didn’t feel right from the start. Even when he spoke warmly of the club and it’s fans, it never quite felt sincere to me. I’m not saying any or indeed every other manager we’ve had was but it seems in general he was never accepted by the fans, who never sung his name and the players who looked a little confused on the pitch sometimes, whereas others mystifyingly were kept off it and ultimately the chairman was equally unsettled by it before long.


Like a lot of people he was never my choice in the first place. I couldn’t get used to hearing his voice on the radio talking about Wigan Athletic, I just never accepted him as the manager of our club and if that means that I’m one of those that #teamcoyle claim “never gave him a chance” then shoot me, that’s how I feel and very little happened over the time he was here to change that.


I genuinely don’t believe that it was because of his Bolton connections that I personally disliked him, well maybe a little bit but it was more down to his attitude to the game which again wasn’t wrong, just a little out of date. I read back what I’ve written and feel instant guilt though. He was the manager of our football club and deserved all our unwavering support but his cheesy face and cheesy words never really appealed to me.


There was some dead easy stuff that might have helped. Winning a few more football matches or even losing a bit more unfortunately. Or playing with a bit more purpose and direction, a sign of a plan and consistency and a settled side, a bit more conviction and we may have all started to him. Of course as his advocates have pointed out and football people in general, he had no time whatsoever to change things and too many football teams (chairmen!!) pull the trigger way too quickly these days.


Nobody can argue that point but once the confidence starts to trickle away be it players, fans or chairmen it can quickly turn into a deluge. We only seemed to get worse during the short time he was here. A three goals in half an hour deluge on Sunday proved to be breaking point for too many people including the one person whose opinion only really matters, the decision maker, the head honcho, the Baron of Barbados, Whelan himself.


I can’t help thinking he’d have made a great boss twenty years ago but unfortunately your average coach these days is a smart, studious often foreign chap in a suit who consumes tactics, dietetics, physiology, even psychology by the bucketload. The chirpy chappy in a trackie joining in 5-a-side with the lads is yesterday’s man(ager) and it was probably reflected in the disjointedness on the pitch.


I think Coyle was a decent fella albeit it a tad annoying (again we always got plenty mileage out of this before he became our manager) and not much changed that during his tenure with the infamous Coyle Bingo cards rapidly populated. Having conversed with his son via Twitter, he again seemed a smashing lad not too perturbed by some of our bell ends hurling abuse at him and I wish them all the best as he came into it hoping to make a real go of it and I don’t like to see anyone lose their job.


But to defend him too much would be folly as he hardly covered himself in glory during his time here.


Again, I suspect it’s a generational thing. You can go back a hundred years and Scots have always clambered over Hadrian’s Wall to teach the Sassenachs how to play football from Dalglish & Law on the field to Shankly and Fergie off it, there has been a steady stream of Scots who have influenced our game even manifesting locally since our non league days with Sutherland, Fleming, McNeill and all.


Although Sir Alex Ferguson may have passed the mantle to another Scot, it strikes me that the SPL and Scotland as a footballing nation is on the decline, a victim of the same globalisation of the game which has seen smaller countries pushed out of football in the same way that big cities dominate the domestic game. I guess the cack handed point I’m trying to make is that the Scottish influence on the English game appears to be fading in the same way that, well, the English influence is dying in the English game.


For that reason I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coyle turn up back in the Scottish league soon the next time he dons his bosses’ shorts but not at his beloved Celtic, perhaps at a Kilmarnock or a Hibs at a push, somewhere he can rebuild his reputation. The hope was at Wigan he could do what he delivered upon taking over at Burnley and Bolton, an initial injection of never say die spirit. In reality it lasted all of one day in Barnsley.


I’m still a bit mystified though as to where it went wrong as when Coyle and Martinez were managers of Bolton and Wigan respectively (and appointed at more or less the same time) Coyle always seemed to have the upper hand on Bob and be the better manager. I’m not saying I preferred Coyle over Martinez but one appeared to be performing better than the other. Until of course they got walloped 5-0 in the FA Cup semi final. If you could plot on a graph Coyle’s career then whereas it would have all been upward trajectory through Burnley and Bolton; well that was the point when it started to nose dive sharply.


Something I read elsewhere likened Owen Coyle to full fat milk: lovely and fresh and filling when you buy it, but sooner or later it goes off and starts to stink the place out. Basically he’s got a limited shelf life. Bit harsh and I’m paraphrasing again but it may have a ring of truth. However, that is not an issue exclusive to Owen Coyle, it turns sour for all but the very best managers due to the cut throat nature of modern football.


Even so, we’re usually quite the remedy for repairing damaged goods at Wigan Athletic and the hope that he could reproduce his early Burnley and Bolton form was the driver for recruiting him. However, the cries of “give him time” whereas equally valid with Coyle as any other manager were perhaps at odds with his track record and the reason he was recruited. As Jonathan Jackson stated in the recent interview I did with him “he just needed to get someone in who would hit the ground running and get on with it”


And Coyle did, bringing in 12 players at short notice to replace 12 who left – superb business. BUT – how many of those players would have been sold or walked away had we stayed up anyway? Most of them I guess, it’s not an unknown situation for a double digit number of staff to walk away from the DW in any given summer and ever since we arrived in the Premier League, player retention and summer overhaul and rebuilding has been a necessity. It’s driven by football itself: agents, players, contracts, the market – not by Wigan Athletic. It’s just not unknown Hondurans and La Liga squad fillers for a change. So Coyle’s recruitment skills were first class but the rest….


It seems that the only group of people who stood so passionately behind Coyle were the ones who were the exact same ones who were so vociferous abou

t the last manager’s shortcomings, as if to compensate their argument. We can only hope that the next appointment augments into a more united front but I’m not getting my hopes up too soon. The constant cries of “give him time” had me visualising Coyle all dolled up like Boy George and singing Culture Club’s hit of the same name.


But to swing back the other way again – even Dave Whelan’s comments about someone he decided was the best man for the job just a few months back were a touch cruel. To suggest it was fan led is also a bit of a red herring as there’s only one person who decides whether a manager is given a chance or not and that’s the same man who takes it away. Those comments have been dissected elsewhere on this site though so let’s park that there.


In summary, football fans may be demanding but then football is demanding with high stakes. I’ve no idea who the next man will be but his challenge will be to create an immediate impression and show signs of long-term philosophy and stability in a hire and fire at will business. I’m not averse to the idea of current favourite Mike Phelan given his association with the best manager of a generation but I’d also like to see him teamed up with a Paul Scholes or Gary Neville, someone younger with desire and new ideas. I’m not completely adverse to Ian Holloway either although suspect that, for all his positive points and record of getting teams up like Coyle he also fits under the “slowly getting whiffy” milk category.


The only completely bad choice I’ve seen is Stuart Pearce, whom Whelan nearly appointed instead of Paul Jewell many years ago. Oh and Paul Jewell, who is better left in front of the camera. I meant on Sky Sports before you start. Karl Robinson – I know nowt about him. Di Canio – probably shares Whelan’s political views but the man’s a lunatic. Is there anyone else?


I’ve got a reasonably open mind towards it to be honest and hopefully you’re the same. I’ve seen the kiddies on twitter moaning about people not giving Coyle time and then next minute saying they don’t want Mr X/Y/Z as manager without a hint of irony. But it’s all conjecture and as I said and keep saying the decision will be at the behest of one man.


I’m sure we’ll have the “not him”s or the “who?”s in due course no matter who gets appointed. Don’t expect to be thrilled by it but try and be a bit more open minded and I’ll do the same and let’s see if we can kick on from here….


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