Owen Coyle was once tipped to replace Arsene Wenger but the former Bolton Manager has just signed as the new head coach for Jamshedpur FC, so how’d that happen?
Owen Coyle managed Bolton for just two years between 2010 and 2012. That was enough to see a number of pundits tip him to replace Arsene Wenger and a not-insignificant section of the Arsenal fanbase to call for the same.
It wasn’t a great time at Arsenal, back then.
The ‘Time without a trophy’ clock had been ticking for years and the media never missed a chance to remind us about it. Tick tock. Tick tock. From the heights of the Invincible season in 2003/04 and the Champions League final in 2006, Arsenal had shifted their priorities to paying off their stadium debt and ensuring they finished in the top four.
Anything beyond that was a bonus.
Given the way the club communicated what was happening, it was no surprise many fans got restless. Ivan Gazidis had, after all, promised us that the austerity we were suffering through now was to give us a future that would compete with Bayern Munich, comments that look more and more absurd with every 8-2 spanking the Germans deliver.
220 miles to the north, Coyle replaced Gary Megson at Bolton, leaving Burnley in January 2010 take over at The Reebok. He was Scottish, 43, and seen as one of the next big things in management in a way he’d never have been viewed had he been from outside England or Scotland.
The calls for Coyle to replace Wenger grew mostly because so many Arsenal fans were quite happy to call for any manager who had beaten us to replace Wenger. The fact that Coyle’s first game in charge of Bolton was against Arsenal at home and he lost 2-0, Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida the scorers for Arsenal in front of 23,893 fans, was lost on many.
There were no Arsenal fans calling for him to replace Wenger that day.
Thinking back, it feels like it was a period when Bolton were always besting us but that had actually come to an end. With Sam Allardyce in charge, Arsenal played Bolton 16 times, only six of which we won. Arsenal lost four and drew six against a Bolton side most of us hated to see coming.
Bolton’s jinx over Arsenal was all to do with Allardyce and Wenger’s refusal to adapt his tactics for such a side, rather than Bolton the club. When Coyle took over, bringing a youthful approach to management at a time when it was still considered an old man’s job, he was able to bask in the reputation Big Sam had forged for the club, especially in the minds of Arsenal fans.
I can say that with some certainty because Coyle managed seven games against Arsenal and Bolton lost five of them. They won only won one – a 2-1 home win at the end of April, 2011.
Timing, as they say, is everything…
All aboard the Owen Coyle hype-train!
With the English media only too happy to hype up another Scot in charge of an English club, seeking out the next Sir Alex Ferguson, when Coyle’s Bolton beat Arsenal the Gunners were still reeling from losing the League Cup final against Birmingham 56 days earlier.
All the pressure had been on Arsene Wenger and his men, without a trophy since their fortunate FA Cup win over Manchester United in 2005 when Patrick Vieira won the game from the spot with his very last kick for the club.
It was expected that Arsenal would beat Birmingham, if not with ease then with a certainty that made the defeat, and it’s manner, all the more crushing.
Fans were not happy.
Between the League Cup final and that game against Bolton, Arsenal lost to Barcelona (Champions League), Manchester United (FA Cup), and drew with Sunderland, West Brom, Blackburn, Liverpool, and Spurs. From nine games, Arsenal won just two: 5-0 against Leyton Orient in the cup and 3-1 win at Blackpool in the league.
Even Bolton would do better, some fans mumbled.
Arsene Wenger, as we know, stayed for another seven years, winning three more FA Cups before he went.
The season after beating Arsenal and being mooted as Wenger’s replacement, Coyle guided Bolton out of the Premier League following 12 consecutive seasons in the top flight, relegated on the last day of the 11/12 season thanks to a 2-2 draw with Stoke.
Coyle stayed in charge of Bolton in the hope of a swift return from the Championship, but just three wins in 10 league games coupled with a defeat in the League Cup at the hands of lowly Crawley Town saw Coyle sacked in October.
Coyle had won just 42 of his 126 Bolton games in charge.
He was given the Wigan job the following season but stayed for just 23 games, winning seven, drawing six and losing 10. Coyle left at the start of December, 2013, following Wigan’s third defeat in a week that saw them sink to 14th in the Championship.
As we know in football, however, one man’s failure is another’s idea of success and just six days later Coyle was named as the head coach of Houston Dynamo on a three-year contract. He would see out just 17 months and 17 days of it.
He left by ‘mutual consent’ with Coyle stating he wanted to be closer to his family at home in the UK and Dynamo unhappy with his run of results. He lost 22 of the club’s 49 games, winning just 16, scoring 64 but conceding 72.
For a man who doesn’t actually do well, Coyle once again didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity to present itself. Eight days later he was manager of Blackburn Rovers where he lasted eight months of his two-year deal. 11 wins in 37 games had, once again, brought about another ‘mutual’ parting.
Coyle had to wait a few months for his next job, leaving Blackburn as he had in February. In September 2017 he was appointed manager of Ross County in the SPL. He resigned five months later after just four wins and his side planted at the foot of the Scottish Premier League.
Six weeks later Arsene Wenger announced he was leaving Arsenal.
Many names were mentioned as managers and coaches who could replace the great man, but Owen Coyle’s was no longer one of them. They would rather you just forget that for a period in 2011 he was the number one choice of many to become Arsenal manager.
He moved to India in December 2019 to take charge of Chennaiyin FC, a club founded in 2014 when Coyle was in the States. There, he succeeded former Aston Villa manager, John Gregory (remember him?) who had resigned despite pleas from the club’s owner to stay.
Coyle guided Chennaiyin to 9th in the league and a play-off place where they finished runners-up, effectively placing them second in the Indian Super League. They had been bottom when he took over. It wasn’t enough to keep him there, however, as in August he moved on to his current home, Jamshedpur.
Mukul Choudhari, Chief Executive Officer, Jamshedpur FC said, “Owen’s vast experience and accomplishments are no secret. With the club’s full support, we look forward to commence our quest for silverware with Owen. We are confident that he is the right man to make Jamshedpur and Jharkhand a force to reckon with in Indian football.”
Still only 54, it remains to be seen how long Coyle stays in India, or with Jamshedpur.
One thing is for sure, though. The road that took him on a drive-by of Arsenal has since taken him a long way away.
Owen Coyle has yet to win anything, except the Premier League Manager of the Month award in March 2014, since being linked with the Arsenal job nine years ago and has won just 46 games of the 146 games he’s managed since leaving Bolton.