Before I start getting angry and ranting, I must just say one thing. What Owen Coyle achieved in little over two years in charge of Burnley Football Club was nothing short of remarkable. When he took over in November 2007, Burnley were languishing mid-table in the second tier of English football and had been doing so for nearly a decade. He reinvented the side's style of play, instilled belief into the players and the fans that something could be achieved and, against all odds, achieved what had previously been unthinkable. A brilliant run to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup was followed in May by victory over Sheffield United at Wembley which ensured a return to the top flight for the first time in 33 years. It was the best of times. Burnley have coped well in the Premier League, with excellent home form in sharp contrast to dire results on their travels, and Coyle had obtained god-like status with the supporters.
Until now. Owen Coyle is the new manager of Bolton Wanderers, having joined the club this week. Every Burnley fan with a brain knew that he would one day move on to bigger and better things, his ability certainly deserves it. We didn't think for a minute that he would stay at Burnley for years to come. Clearly an ambitious man, Coyle is capable of managing at a much higher level. But the manner of his departure leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, and has lead to the freefall of Coyle's reputation amongst fans that used to idolise him and, dare I say, football fans in general. Burnley supporters could have accepted him moving upwards, to an Everton or Aston Villa for example, but the sideways move he has made to join Bolton Wanderers is stunning. Bolton, in spite of their greater funds, are two points below Burnley in the Premiership table and play a horrendous brand of football that Coyle will have his work cut out to change. They are in huge debt, and have unloyal supporters who, as was proved with the unfortunate Gary Megson, will turn on their manager at the first opportunity. Nobody other than Bolton fans, and apparently Owen Coyle, believes this is a good move for a manager with such talent and reputation. I do not buy the idea that Coyle is a Bolton man through-and-through. He played for the club for two seasons, not even as a first team regular, in a career that saw him play for many clubs. He was in a win-win situation at Burnley. Relegation would not have damaged his reputation, and he could have departed in the summer with our best wishes. If he had masterminded a survival, he would have had his name etched into BFC folklore even more than it had been already, and his reputation would have been increased tenfold. At Bolton, he must keep them up. It is as simple as that. Relegation would deal a tremendous blow to his reputation.
The timing of the move is another issue. To leave the club at the start of the January transfer window- a crucial time for any club, particularly one looking for reinforcements to help stave off the threat of relegation- is cruel, and extremely damaging. Best-laid plans will have to be re-thought, and the new manager, whoever he will be, will have very little time to get to grips with the current squad and add to it. And to leave for a relegation rival, a club in direct competition, doubles the blow. Coyle has, on the face of it, boosted Bolton's season, while at the same time potentially crippling Burnley's. That is inexcusable.
But more than anything, what niggles at Burnley the fans the most is that we never expected this of Owen 'God' Coyle. Coyle was a man who appeared to buy into the history of the club. He built a rapport with the fans. He railed against footballers motivated by money. He described himself as an honest, loyal, family man. He spoke of the 'project' he was involved in at Burnley. And, ridiculously, he said a few days prior to his move that he was focused on his job at Burnley.
One Owen Coyle quote that really stands out for me is this: "As soon as a player mentions money my interest in them has gone. What kind of man would I be if I sold this club to a young player when signing him, offering him the chance to progress into a Premier League-quality footballer, if I jumped ship as soon as a better offer came along?". I'd like to put that question to Owen Coyle now, if he is ever good enough to discuss the way in which he has handled this situation without going through his faithful stooge, Mirror journalist Alan Nixon. What kind of man do I think it makes him? A lying man. A fraud. A hypocrite.
Owen Coyle gave Burnley supporters some of the best times in leaving memory. And we loved him for it. But to leave in this manner, at this time, for this destination, after all that he had said, is nothing short of betrayal. If he is moving to Bolton to prolong his Premiership career, as some have claimed, then he is a quitter, a man who did not trust his own ability to finish what he had started and keep Burnley in the big time. And if he left for the money, then he is a liar and a hypocrite, dumping on Burnley from a great height at a crucial time.
What is certain is that the supporters won't forgive. Most of us will now look out for Bolton results in the hope that Coyle makes a fool of himself. Burnley surviving at the end of the season would mean that little bit more if it meant we consigned Coyle and his new side to the Championship. Some Burnley fans have already started labelling him 'Judas'. I personally think this is unfair. Judas at least waited until Easter to take his thirty pieces of silver.
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