Saturday, January 09, 2010

Coyle leaves Celtic out in the cold

So finally Owen Coyle has been officially appointed as Bolton manager. A fairly protracted process, for sure, but one that was inevitable when Coyle chose to avoid his post match media duties after last week's game.

Beware the no show manager who leaves his assistant to explain that he's been called away to see his family.

Many have been perplexed by Coyle's decision. Plaudits galore at Burnley or the glamour of Bolton? In part this confusion stems from the romanticised view that the media takes of "little" Burnley and their brave exploits.

North of the border some were wondering what had changed. Why, when Celtic came calling in the summer, was Coyle happy to pledge his future to Turf Moor only to up sticks the minute Bolton came calling? Is this not the footballing equivalent of knocking back Ingrid Bergman and shacking up with Claude Rains?

Some cited the emotional attachment Coyle, a former player, felt to Bolton. Hmmm. If that was the case then will he also find it hard to turn down Dumbarton, Airdrie or Motherwell when they come calling? Probably not.

It was Paul Wilson in The Guardian who got closest to the reality of the situation:
That explains why they want a purist like Coyle, it does not explain why the manager would fancy a move that at best seems sideways and in terms of current league position is downwards. The simplest explanation is probably that despite appearances, Coyle is not romantic about football at all. A football romantic, brought up in the east end of Glasgow, would have found the call of Celtic irresistible. Coyle did not. He came to the conclusion that managing in the Premier League was a higher station, and the Celtic job duly went to the manager who had just been relegated with West Bromwich Albion. A few months after that, the previous Celtic manager, who had remarked with dismay that he was finding it difficult to compete for players with the likes of Hull City, turned up in the Championship with Middlesbrough.

So Coyle made an unsentimental decision there, and found his stock rising even higher when Burnley began to beat bigger clubs and ensconce themselves around the middle of the table rather than at its foot, which is what everyone had predicted. But just as Martin O'Neill eventually came to realise that it would be impossible to achieve his ambitions at Leicester City, and that basic survival plus the odd League Cup would be all that would ever be on the horizon, so Coyle must have worked out that Burnley, a considerably smaller club in a considerably smaller place than Leicester, could not rise much higher.
Obviously Owen Coyle is just one man. Others might feel differently. But could anyone imagine David Moyes or Alex McLeish coming back to Scotland for any job that we could find for them? Or Celtic or Rangers being able to attract a manager as highly rated as Martin O'Neill was when he became the Messiah of Parkhead?

It's hard to escape the conclusion that even our two biggest jobs are now looked on in much the same way as the vice-presidency of the United States: not worth a bucket of warm piss. Oh, you'll always get someone who wants the job. But you might find it's the footballing equivalent of Sarah Palin.

Coyle's left Burnley for another small club but one that has the attraction of almost a decade in the top flight. What else was he going to do? Wait for the Manchester United job, the Arsenal job. That's not going to happen so he's taken the gamble that he can turn Bolton's season around and then do a Sam Allardyce with added flair.

I wish him well. But the fact that steering a club to the upper half of the English Premier League was more attractive than trying to win a two horse race in Scotland might lead to some soul searching in Glasgow.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ten for 2010

Well, if you don’t ask you don’t get. So here is my January wish list for the year ahead.

1. The weather to improve: seems obvious but this is getting intolerable. The calls for a winter break will get ever louder. Hard to see how that can work without a massive restructuring of our game to reduce the number of games played. Why? Because the break would need to last for weeks to cover the potential months when bad weather could hit.

2. Craig Levein to impress: We’re not looking for miracles but tangible improvements are necessary by the start of qualifying next September-ish. Speaking to Kris Boyd, Alan McGreggor and Barry Ferguson shows a willingness to explore all options. Telling them thanks but no thanks after that discussion would endear the new boss to me. I suspect I’m not alone.

3. The third placed team to finish within 10 points of the Old Firm. Not a massive achievement but a measure of a narrowing gap. Also it would serve as a reminder to Kevin Thomson that he’s really best advised to keep his mouth shut until he’s grown up enough to open it without offending most of the people listening.

4. Two cups, two different teams. Don’t really care who does it but two teams outside the Old Firm getting their hands on some silverware this season would be a perfect start to the decade.

5. Common sense in the middle. The Jim Gannon led furore over refereeing went over the top. That said, there must be an improvement. Not sending Kyle Lafferty off on Sunday suggests that Steve Conroy was either scared of the occasion or has no feeling for the game. For once our refereeing standards were exposed as shoddy for not showing a red card.

6. One nation, one governing body. Gordon Smith surprised us all when he gave Craig Levein the manager’s job. For his next trick he needs to broker the agreement that sees the game in Scotland governed by only one organisation. Three tin-pot dictatorships is a harmful waste of resources.

7. Stability. With Craig Levein and Jim Gannon both gone we’ve lost a sixth of our top flight managers already this season. Others might be wondering if their jackets are on shoogly pegs, not least Csaba Lazlo after Hearts unveiled a sporting director – a move traditionally seen as ominous. Don’t stick with bad managers. But unless you’re damn sure you’re getting something better in exchange then there’s a lot to be said for stability.

8. Excitement. Rangers scoring 20 goals in four games against the teams in 3rd, 4th and 5th is not exciting. The season promised much. Don’t let it fizzle out.

9. If it’s a two horse race make it competitive. I honestly don’t care which of the gruesome twosome wins the SPL. But the drama of a last day finale with one side of the great divide in tears always amuses.

10. Some European progress. This season we’ve not been good enough on our travels. We need, at the very least, to go out next season an regain some pride. We’re not a top European nation. That’s fine. But surely we can aim for something a little better than Lichtenstein.