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From Player to Manager: Owen Coyle

29 April 2020

In this feature we’re profiling those who played for Wanderers before going onto become manager of the club after hanging their boots up and first up, Owen Coyle.

Born in Paisley in Scotland, Coyle began his professional career with Dumbarton in 1985, playing alongside his brothers Joe and Tommy. He spent three years in the senior setup with the club before signing for Clydebank in 1988.

After success north of the border with his next club, Airdrieonians – Coyle moved south to sign for Wanderers, arriving at Burnden Park in the summer of 1993 with the club paying £250,000 for his signature.

Scoring his first goal in the opening home fixture of the 1993/94 season, Coyle would go on to score 17 goals in all competitions during a campaign of league consolidation, with Wanderers finishing 14th in Division One – the second tier of English football at that time.

Rioch’s side did however get the opportunity to compete in the Anglo-Italian Cup and after qualifying with victories against Tranmere Rovers and Sunderland, they played in group fixtures against Ancona, Brescia, Pisa and Ascoli.  

The competition which now no longer exists, proved to be rather fruitful for Coyle with four goals from the six matches the club played in during a three and-a-half month period.

Having been promoted back to the second tier of English football just the season before, Wanderers would surely have taken a season consolidation with a couple of runs in the cup competitions and Coyle profited from the FA Cup too with five goals in a campaign with saw Wanderers reach the Quarter-Finals.

Scoring goals against Gretna (2), Lincoln City, Everton and Arsenal it was Oldham Athletic who eventually prevented the team’s progression into the Semi-Final with the Latics beaten at that stage by eventual winners Manchester United.

With 50 goals between them by the end of the 1993/94 campaign, John McGinlay and Owen Coyle had seemingly struck up a potent partnership heading into a season which brought more success during a period of elevation under Bruce Rioch.

On the goal scoring front, the 1994/95 campaign wasn’t as successful for Coyle with just 6 goals in all competitions comparably less than his return of 17 in his first year with Wanderers, however his last goal for the football club would prove to be such an important one.

Under the management and guidance of Bruce Rioch, Wanderers were certainly not settling for another season of consolidation and getting to grips with the First Division and had sights set on a first ever promotion to the Premier League.

Ultimately after 46 league matches of the regular campaign, Wanderers finished third with a dip in form perhaps costing them the league title. It was Middlesbrough who lifted the silverware claiming the only automatic promotion spot and it was to be Wolves in the Play-Offs.

After a 3-2 aggregate victory thanks to goals from Jason McAteer and John McGinlay (2), it was a return to Wembley to face Reading for a spot in the top flight. Wanderers had already enjoyed a trip to the national stadium in April for the Coca-Cola Cup Final against Liverpool however, Coyle wasn’t in the squad that day as The Reds claimed the victory.

Reading started the Play-Off Final brilliantly and scored twice in the early stages of the game through Lee Nogan and Adrian Williams. Keith Branagan saved a penalty from Stuart Lovell before the break and Owen Coyle scored with fifteen minutes remaining to drag Wanderers back into the contest.

Goals from Fabian de Freitas (2) and Mixu Paatelainen would secure a 4-3 victory over the Berkshire club after extra-time. A promotion to the Premier League and a day to remember for the club, for the town and of course for Coyle who made a significant mark on his first appearance at Wembley.

Playing briefly in the early stages of the 1995/96 season, Coyle left the club in October 1995 to sign for Dundee United for a £400,000 fee and from there onwards he spent the remainder of his playing career in Scotland before his retirement in 2007.

His first real break in management came at St. Johnstone whilst he was still making odd appearances on the pitch as a veteran outfielder but in 2007 he was appointed as manager of Burnley. Reportedly the second choice for the Bolton job behind Gary Megson, the former Republic of Ireland international would eventually return to the club after a hugely successful spell at Turf Moor.

Taking over at Burnley from Steve Cotterill midway through the 2007/08 campaign, he guided them to a mid-table finish in the Championship and the following season would be a dream come true for Coyle as well as the majority of the population of the small East Lancashire town.

The first two matches of the season were disastrous. Losing 4-1 at Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day, Coyle’s side were beaten 3-0 at Turf Moor by Ipswich Town before back-to-back goalless draws with Crystal Palace and Plymouth Argyle, but something clicked and Burnley lost just three more matches before Christmas.

Promoted to the Premier League for the first time via the Play-Offs after victory against Sheffield United at Wembley, the Clarets had also been guided to the League Cup Semi-Final where they were agonisingly beaten by Tottenham Hotspur after extra-time.

With Burnley 14th in the Premier League, Coyle moved to fill the managerial vacancy at Bolton Wanderers in January 2010.

Wanderers finished 14th in his first full season in charge (2010-11) and Coyle guided the club to the FA Cup Semi-Final against Stoke City but the following campaign would end in tears with relegation after eleven consecutive seasons in the top flight. Just one point separated Wanderers in 18th and Queens Park Rangers above the dotted line in 17th. Fine margins proving costly.

After just three victories in the opening ten league matches of the 2012/13 season, Coyle was relieved of his duties as Wanderers boss following a 2-1 defeat at Millwall.

As a player (1993-1995)

Appearances: 78

Goals: 23

As a manager (2010-2012)

Matches: 126

Wins: 42

Draws: 24

Losses: 60

 

 


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