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How Owen Coyle went from rising star to failed manager

It’s the 19th March 2011, and things are going OK for Bolton Wanderers. They are riding high in the Premier League and a Europa League spot seems likely, the first time they’d make it into the competition since Sam Allardyce. Soon, they would be playing at Wembley after booking their place in the FA Cup semi-final after a thrilling win over Birmingham City. They were even holding Manchester United at Old Trafford, it was a good life to say the least.

Then, the nightmare begun. Jonny Evans went in with a studs up  challenge on Stuart Holden, causing his femur to be broken and he was then stretchered off and Evans to be sent off. This would be the beginning of the end for Holden, who would never truly recover from this incident and eventually would retire from the game in 2016. But it was also the moment that Coyle would never recover from.

Before then, Coyle was seen as one of the best young managers in the country. After doing well in Scotland with St Johnstone, he would be appointed as the manager of Burnley. He was an instant success at Turf Moor and made the 2008/09 season a truly historic one for the Clarets. He guided them to the semi-finals of the League Cup, beating Chelsea and Arsenal on the way before being prevented by a historic final appearance by a cruel late goal by opponents Tottenham Hotspur. They would go on to be promoted after beating Sheffield United in the Championship play-off final but it didn’t stop there. Early on in their Premier League life, they beat defending champions Manchester United and it seemed like they would be secure in that league for years to come.

However life is cruel, and Bolton (Whose chairman actually recommended Coyle to Burnley in the first place) would swoop in and appoint him in January 2010 as a replacement for Gary Megson. Things would go well for Coyle here, firstly making sure Bolton weren’t relegated by giving them a comfortable points cushion above former team Burnley who would be relegated, and then on the ride of a life time as the Europa League and the FA Cup final beckoned. Coyle was hailed as a genius, a rising star, someone who was being talked as a potential replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Then the Holden injury happened.

That injury is a clear point when things started to go wrong for Coyle. Their form would nosedive for the rest of the season, only winning twice for the last few eight games. Their much-anticipated FA Cup semi-final match was a bust, with Stoke City embarrassing them 5-0 on the big stage. But that bad fun of form would be inevitable for most teams in Bolton’s position that lose a key player like Holden, not many managers would cope with it.

What would harm Coyle’s reputation is the season after. Their disastrous form would continue and eventually they would be relegated from the Premier League. And things would continue to unravel from there. Their form after relegation to the Championship did not improve and it wouldn’t be long until Coyle was sacked.

I could go on about Coyle’s spells at Wigan Athletic, Houston Dynamo and Blackburn Rovers, which were all very poor. Ok, his latest period at Blackburn was never destined to be a great one, no one can prosper at Ewood Park due to the ownership issues there, but previous bosses did a lot better. Heck, even Steve Kean did better. It’s no surprise that he was given his P45.

This may not be it for Coyle. He certainly won’t be back in the Championship anytime soon and his demands will probably be too high for anyone else in the EFL. Of course he could end up going abroad again but his departure from Houston wasn’t just about the poor results, he didn’t want to be too far from his family and returned to England so that could happen. So it’s unlikely he will follow Kean to Singapore, where he currently works.

So there you go. From one of the brightest prospects in management to the scrapheap. Football is tough.

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