Coyle’s decision shows lack of loyalty in modern game

Owen Coyle’s decision to ditch Burnley for Bolton has left me bewildered. Not only has he abandoned Turf Moor with the job undeniably half finished, he has moved to a club that are also fighting to stay in the league. Coyle has worked miracles and some would say that the fans should just be thankful for the success he has brought to them, but he owes Burnley just as much as they owe him.

Before taking over the Lancashire club he was manager of St. Johnstone and was barely known south of the border. Fast forward two years and Celtic made Coyle their number one target to replace Gordon Strachan. When George Burley was axed as Scottish manager Coyle was again being talked up. Coyle would not have received this interest had it not been for the gamble taken by Burnley chairman Barry Kilby, and yet now he walks away from Turf Moor.

How is Coyle happy to leave Kilby and his team? If Burnley were bottom and Bolton were doing well you could perhaps see the logic but this is the man who, when Celtic came calling, signed an extension to his contract reported to stretch to 2012. Do contracts mean anything anymore? If I was a Burnley fan I would be fuming. Coyle has left Burnley high and dry, and for what? Do Bolton necessarily have a higher chance of staying in the Premier League? I would vouch that the answer to that question is no. Coyle disagrees, with the suggestion being Bolton’s increased transfer budget gives him the resources to remain a Premiership manager. This leads us to the crux of the argument: ambition. Coyle has left Burnley to further his own career, and he is not the only one.

Gone are the days of one club players. Players like Matt Le Tissier and Steve Bull ignored the interests of bigger clubs in favour of playing for their team. You might suggest someone like John Terry will go on to play for Chelsea until his career ceases but this is the same John Terry who was remarkably quiet when Manchester City showed interest in him over the summer. Terry could easily have come out and said he wasn’t interested in leaving the Bridge, but no, ‘Captain Fantastic’ chose instead to keep quiet, holding Chelsea to ransom so that they increased his ever growing wage packet.

Another footballer guilty of lacking loyalty is England’s left back Ashley Cole. Often called “Cashley” by the tabloids, Cole describes the moment his agent told him of Arsenal’s offer of a new contract: “When I heard my agent repeat the figure of £55,000 [per week], I nearly swerved off the road. “He’s taking the piss, Jonathan!” I yelled down the phone. I was trembling with anger”.

Now the money argument can effectively be removed this argument. Maybe he deserved more money from the Gunners but Cole was a local boy who had been at the club from a young age. Why was his focus on earning more? Should it not have been on improving his game and helping to bring more silverware to his local club? Cole is not evil, as many people would suggest, but he is, like Terry, just a product of his time. It is deeply engrained in footballers that ambition means more money, bigger clubs, a bit more money and maybe if they can swing it a bit more money. Football is now a business. A business where agents have so much sway that the players are just pawns.

So what do fans make of this lack of loyalty? Essentially there is no longer the anger there previously was. When the want away Joleon Lescott eventually got his wish and arrived at Man City, Everton fans were not surprised. There were no cries of Judas like there were for Sol Campbell. Arsenal fans might boo Ashley Cole but Chelsea and Liverpool fans are happy to forget Terry and Gerrard’s respective misdemeanours. We now expect this lack of loyalty; to recycle an old phrase, it is part and parcel of football. However, call me old fashioned, I would prefer to go back to an age where players stuck with their local teams. It would be nice if a player kissing a badge or signing a contract actually meant something.

As it is, it’s all empty and meaningless because these players and managers are now businessmen and they make decisions fuelled by ambition and greed. How sad. My hope is come Sunday 9th May we see a Burnley side remaining in the Premier League and we see Owen Coyle’s Bolton heading down to the Championship. It would be a victory for loyalty.


  1. 9 Jan ’10 at 9:12 pm

    Sergei Baltacha

    Good article. I agree that loyalty from players to their clubs is all but dead in the modern game. However I think we should be more sympathetic to Coyle. Managers are only as good as their recent results and they know that one bad season could end their career. Many promising new managers (Alan Pardew, Aidy Boothroyd, Roy Keane) have seen their careers flourish when they have taken a team to the Premiership, only to collapse as the club’s expectations increase and they fall victim to the dreaded “second season syndrome”.

    Coyle has quit while he’s still ahead, moving to a club that, despite a poor season so far, have established themselves in the top division and have a better chance than Burnley of being there in three years time. Ambition over loyalty, yes, but it might stop him from becoming the next hyped manager to fall into obscurity.

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  2. Nice point and actually I agree with a lot of what you say. Perhaps Coyle is one step ahead of the game in preserving his reputation, I imagine he will keep Bolton up comfortably and will have the money to build his team over the summer.

    However, surely it’s better to give it a go. Alan Curbishley stuck with Charlton for many years, ignoring the overtures of bigger clubs and he managed to prove his managerial stock and keep his side in the Premier League. Similarly, and I know it’s slightly different, Phil Brown is still the manager of a Premier League side that he brought up one and a half seasons ago. Another example is Tony Pulis. The difference being, of course, there was less interest in their services. I just think though if Coyle does keep Bolton up and is able to build on it, how will he feel if he sees Burnley back in the Championship? What price will his conscience have to pay for deserting the Clarets?

    p.s Sergei Baltacha? Not an Ipswich fan by any chance?

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  3. Burnley expected to go back down this season and hence set up a budget that reflected this. Their wage cap was set at 14k tops for any player. Coyle agreed with this, seeing it as a pragmatic step by the club.

    However it got to December and Coyle realised they had a genuine chance at staying up. Pourtsmouth, Hull, Bolton were all seen as being in disaray and more likely to go down. Coyle wanted extra funds for wages and players and this was denied. As well as this he found at that Flood and Kilby had been hawking round Chris Eagles to other PL clubs for 4million.

    Because of this his relationship began to deteriorate with the board and this is what had led him to leave for Bolton. Burnley’s board didnt realise how lucky they were to have such a good manager and have let the club down.

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  4. Being a season ticket holder at Burnley since Stan Ternent was in charge, I dreamed of the day I would watch my club play against clubs like Chelsea in a league game. Owen Coyle put the belief in the club, that after 33 years, Burnley could get back into the Premier League. At the Player of the Year awards last April, Coyle talked about WHEN Burnley would win the last game of the season, WHEN they got to Wembley and WHEN they got promoted with no doubt that the club could achieve that dream.

    It’s easy to see why Burnley fans referred to him as ‘GOD’ but the majority of those fans now feel betrayed. After Coyle was quoted to say “I thought of the player I’d persuaded to be part of this, and in the end I knew, I had to stay and carry of this incredible adventure” when linked to the Celtic job, Burnley fans believed he would retain his title of ‘GOD’ at least until the end of the season.

    At the end of the season, anything above relegation would be a bonus, and a continuation of this dream we are currently living. Even if Coyle had stayed until the end of the season, and we faced relegation, I’m sure he would still have been loved by every Burnley fan. However, with his departure to one of Burnley’s Lancashire rivals, Bolton, there are certainly mixed feelings among the Burnley fans. Although we must focus on what he has achieved for our club, we cannot forget the manner in which he left.

    There will be a lot of fans at tomorrow night’s fixture at Bolton with one aim, showing their hatred for Coyle through banners and songs. We need to move on from what Coyle did to us and get behind our new manager. I was at Old Trafford for Brian Laws’ first fixture in charge and Burnley fans gave him a very good reception, chanting his name throughout although with the occasional chant about hating Coyle and Bolton in between. End of the day, Coyle has gone whether we like it or not and Laws now has the chance to become the new ‘GOD’. It certainly seemed he was not the fan’s first choice as replacement manager, but he has got the job now. If we give Laws our support, and back the players, hopefully we will retain our premiership status. Our first league away win of the season, and our first win since October, could well be against Owen Coyle’s Bolton tomorrow night.

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