Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Coyle Experiment

It was doomed to fail.  Previously, I compared Owen Coyle to being a little bit like Roberto Martinez   It’s clear now that’s how he got the job in the summer - talking his way into the DW vault and opening up a slight crack in the fabled Whelan Warchest (but not all of it, obviously).  Unfortunately for him, Martinez is the likeable one, he was able to come away with some prestigious silverware and a nice cushy job in Liverpool, in the face of some ridiculous results, Owen is the over-confident one, played his bluff with the last man you would want to play with and now he’s left to rue his mistakes, as his battle shorts are sadly tucked into the drawer once more.
- the pair could be a duo of confidence tricksters, talking their way into the hearts and minds of clubs and fans everywhere. And old ladies’ pension books.

At the time of his appointment, we had Bolton fans telling us about his shortcomings, in between fits of laughter and taunts of ‘you’re going down’ (we needed a Rosetta Stone to translate the Middle English, obviously).  If only Dave Whelan had talked to his Bolton counterpart beforehand...  To be fair to Whelan though, at least he pulled the trigger now, instead of letting Coyle turn and ravage the club for much longer than he did.

‘Ravaging’ are you sure? I can hear it now. Well, I didn’t believe it myself up until the Derby game. I wanted him to do well, simply because I thought some of the abuse he got from Latics’ fans was out of order. But after hearing various stories about his relationship with players and Whelan himself being quoted as saying on (his regular spot on) Sky Sports News “You can be lucky, get a great guy, the right man, like I got Roberto. You can be unlucky and get somebody who doesn’t get on with you, doesn’t get on with the team and doesn’t get on with the fans. And that is what actually happened with Owen” it’s understandable that he left. All this came just a week or so since the Chairman gave Coyle his support on the same channel. So what happened? I don’t believe for a minute that 3 defeats in a row was the reason behind the massive swing in his beliefs. Especially when Roberto lost many more games on the spin, including 8 in a row once, and racked up some ridiculous goals against. It was apparently Coyle who offered to resign and if it’s true, it’s an incredibly stupid bluff to play and perhaps sums up his thinking and management style.

On results alone, if it were up to me, I would have kept hold of Coyle until the end of the season.  I agree with the consensus that a manager needs at least a year to put his stamp on the club. Then again, I would have never appointed him in the first place. His connection with Bolton was immediately seized upon and the supporters never made him forget it. Owen seems to be a confident man and sometimes people mistake that for arrogance, and we don’t like that here. Or the fact he was a Bolton manager. The football got increasingly dire and achieved nothing – at least the football under Martinez, though foolhardy most of time, was entertaining to watch. I can count all the games that we should have won this season on both hands, but because of bizarre tactics and team selections, we’ve not being doing as well as we should be doing, especially with a squad that is full of players with Premier League experience, and wages.

As we know now, The Derby game was the final straw and you could sense that Coyle cracked after he had a go at the fans for having ‘lofty expectations’. He might have had a point, but the way in which he presented it just smacked of a venomous excuse for another poor performance.  It was clear that he wasn’t one of us, he probably wasn’t committed to Wigan Athletic enough.  Straight after the game, rumours started circulating about bust-ups with players (some of whom, including a international who had led the England defence a merry dance just a week or so earlier, weren’t even in the squad, but magically reappeared for the Leeds game a few days later) and by midnight we had heard that he had parted company with the club. Or if you were to believe the media: the Chairman crept up behind him and axed him in the back with a mischievous cackle, as the claret of his victim splattered the FA Cup, taking the shine off it slightly. If the rumours are true – then I’m sorry, but that’s made his position totally unacceptable. He sold the Chairman a product of Owen Coyle, the manager who likes to play decent football and can improve players. All we’ve seen is poor football and decent players being alienated and made to sit in the stands. Managers may moan about the lack of time that they get, but situations like this can’t go on because it will only harm the football club.

The aftermath has made interesting reading. Without trying to sound pompous, 8 years in the Premier League has given me a good insight into how the national media work, as they run a story about your football club that you know for a fact sounds a bit iffy. A journalist friend of Owen Coyle (which strikes me as a strange relationship, to be honest) was the first to run the story on Sunday evening and has since been sounding off on Twitter, swearing at Wigan fans etc. Maybe because Owen got the boot, but I think mostly because he’s lost something to write about for the foreseeable future. But he’s been using his last trickles of information to have a go at Whelan, blaming him for the lack of time, budgets and the Europa League. For me, the Europa League isn’t an ‘excuse’. You might be able to make an argument for the former two, but for a club like ours, the Europa League is a joy to play in and I don’t believe that the competition has hampered us – playing more games can only make you improve as a team, surely? Coyle signed 13 players, so more games would be beneficial for them to acclimatise to the club, their new teammates and his tactics. What has hampered us is bizarre tactics and team selections with players who would get into most Championship squads and probably a few Premier League ones too. Hardly the fault of the Chairman, is it? And anyway – our results in the League AFTER Europa League games reads 3 wins, 1 draw – and 1 defeat. Can you guess when that 1 loss came? Yep, against Derby. We’ve lost more games and put in more baffling performances at times when the players have had more recovery time.

Despite my criticism of him, I don’t entirely blame Owen Coyle – everyone at the club needs to take stock of things. Dave Whelan for appointing him in the first place, the players for being poor and the fans for producing a negative atmosphere from day one, that wouldn’t have helped one bit. Ironically, if everyone learns from this and applies themselves better in the future, then you could argue that the Coyle experiment was actually a success!

So the next in line is Uwe Rosler. I can’t really say too much about him at the moment, because he’s been in the job for a matter of days! I feel a bit sorry for Brentford, because I know how much losing a manager can affect your club. Just look at us and Roberto at Everton now! Uwe came across well in the press conference, very cool and calm, as he outlined some of his plans. The thing with Coyle, was that despite being a good communicator, you get the feeling that he was trying too hard to convince you, as he uses clich├ęs to try and explain things. He never set out a footballing philosophy. You don’t get that with Uwe, he just sat there and said what he was going to do. I’m quite frightened of him to be honest.  The main thing he outlined was his style of play and his ambitions. We’re a club that lost its way under Coyle and hope Uwe can steer us back on course. We’ll have to wait to find out of course, but the signs are already more positive than they were under Coyle.

Looks like Roberto Martinez has got a new partner in the ‘conning old ladies out of pension money’ racket.

First published on Football League fansite 'We Are Going Up' on 10th December 2013