After two years of boos, banners, whistles, and acrimony the Bolton fans finally got their wish, Gary Megson got the bullet. Not content with winning and punching above their weight in the Premiership the Trotters fans now demand style and panache. So the news coming through shortly after that Owen Coyle would be his replacement was greeted with locals dancing in the streets believing it to be the first step to higher ground. Will it be a dream move that sees Coyle transform the culture of Bolton forever? Or could he take Bolton sinking into Championship obscurity and see his own career suffer the same fate?
Coyle’s reasons for moving to the Reebok Stadium are understandable. A bigger budget will allow him more freedom in the transfer market and the chance to test his obvious management skills on better players. But with this comes a much greater pressure to succeed.
If Coyle had stayed at Burnley whatever happened this season his reputation come the middle of May will be as strong as it was back in August. Over the past five months against all the odds Burnley have competed strongly in the Premiership which is more than can be said for other teams who have come up through the playoffs in recent years. In his short managerial career Coyle has brought success to clubs with relatively low expectations and little or no money, with St Johnstone and Burnley both being relatively small fish in big ponds.
However as the fan-enforced departure of Gary Megson proved the task at Bolton will have to be done under a completely different set of circumstances. Should Coyle take Bolton back down to the Championship for the first time in nine years it would bring about a huge stain on his short CV. Questions would immediately be asked about his ability to manage bigger budgets, bigger players and bigger expectations at this very early stage in his career.
Bolton Wanderers only have one reason for employing Owen Coyle. They simply have to stay in the Premiership. The noughties brought about a hugely successful period for Bolton where they became almost more renowned for their unique yet effective style of play followed religiously by Sam Allardyce and Gary Megson. Both used a 4-5-1 formation and a direct, gritty style built around the unattractive yet effective qualities of players such as Kevin Davies and Kevin Nolan. Things were kept tight, Bolton became masters of the smash and grab and they rarely got hammered.
Owen Coyle and Burnley however have become renowned for completely different reasons. A 4-4-2 formation with a somewhat frantic, gung ho style using the full width of the pitch and getting everyone on the ball come what may has led to Turf Moor becoming a fortress; but on the flip side it has led them to conceding an average of 3.1 goals a game on the road and picking up just a solitary point out of a possible 30. These rather shocking statistics reveal Coyle’s one obvious weakness as a young manager. They point to his apparent inability to adapt to different situations from a tactical and psychological point of view.
This is where Bolton and Owen Coyle could both come unstuck. Coyle must be given the time to stamp his personality on the club but his first priority must be to keep Bolton up one way or another. However after a decade of doing things a certain way the Bolton players will not change for Owen Coyle in the space of four months. Coyle must master the art of using different players in different ways very quickly which is something he has yet to do successfully.
Employing Coyle and installing a different style could bring a new dawn to Bolton Wanderers or it could prove to be the decision that brings even darker days to their fans who hailed him as the new beginning.