x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Coyle makes bold move

Owen Coyle's risky decision to leave Turf Moor and take over at Bolton ends an era, albeit a brief one, where astute management produced a rapid rise for a club.

For Burnley, the age of innocence is over. Owen Coyle's decision to leave Turf Moor and take over at Bolton ends an era, albeit a brief one, where astute management produced a rapid rise for a club whose best days had seemingly been consigned to history, where a fearless side sought to outplay some of the top teams in Europe and sometimes succeeded, where one man's belief spread to a team, a fan base and a town.

A manager compared to a young Bill Shankly upon his appointment at Turf Moor was not burdened by the comparison. Indeed, much as Shankly is revered in Liverpool, Coyle generated similar support in Burnley. His was the name chorused most by their supporters. Now a town of believers have become unwelcome converts to atheism. There is a sense of shock that Coyle has deserted Burnley for Bolton. His time as a striker at Wanderers 15 years ago cannot be ignored, but Coyle had spurned the advances of Celtic, the club he supported as a boy, to stay at Burnley.

He had been swift to rule himself out of the reckoning to succeed George Burley as Scotland manager. Then he left to take a job at a club four places below Burnley in the Premier League table. It leaves a sour taste. Coyle appears among the most principled men in football, a teetotal enthusiast who imbues all around him with his love for the game. His Burnley side have been defensively naive at times this season, but he is a brilliant man-manager. It was telling that the Clarets, who used fewer players than any other club in the Championship last season, had the strength and spirit to win promotion in their 61st game of the campaign.

At Bolton, the task is different. With 20 matches remaining, an immediate impact is needed more than an indefatigability. The intriguing element is delivered by contrasting philosophies. Despite Coyle's background as a former Wanderers player, he brings idealism to a club where pragmatism has ruled. Popularity, something his predecessor Gary Megson never enjoyed, should restore a long-lost feel-good factor and increase the gate.

In the last two years, negativity has reigned at the Reebok Stadium. Implementing a progressive style of play with a group of players configured for direct football is one of the challenges. So is a task for which Coyle may be less well qualified: keeping a clean sheet. Bolton are the only Premier League side without one, despite Megson's continual investment in defenders. The departed manager felt financial restrictions impeded him. Recruiting Coyle has cost Bolton a reported £3 million (Dh17.6m), so finding additional funds for transfers may be difficult.

Bolton's budget is small by Premier League standards, but Burnley's is minuscule; their wage ceiling is £15,000 a week. Had Burnley, as rank outsiders, gone down, it would have been understandable. A standing as one of the game's most promising managers would not have been damaged unduly Demotion with Bolton, an established, albeit struggling, top-flight club would represent a black mark on an otherwise glittering CV. His reputation could be damaged in the summer. For some, it already has been, simply by his decision to leave Burnley. @Email:sports@thenational.ae