Burnley manager Owen Coyle, the man that brought the club back to the top flight of English football, is set to abandon the Clarets in favour of a move to Bolton Wanderers.
The club’s official website has declared that compensation has “yet to be agreed”, but it seems inconceivable that Burnley will stand in Coyle’s way.
Media outlets have already started to speculate about the identity of his successor, with Goal.com UK reporting Manchester United’s assistant manager Mike Phelan is the front-runner for the job.
But is Coyle right to make the move to Bolton? The club currently sits in the relegation zone and are perennial basement dog-fighters, they are unlikely to achieve anything more than a mid-table finish in the league. That’s a best case scenario.
Given that Coyle turned down the opportunity to move to Celtic in the summer, it does seem a little odd that he would up and move in the middle of the season.
His motivation is money. Burnley offered the Scot £4 million to spend in the January transfer window in an attempt to get him to stay, but it’s clear that this is a paltry sum in terms of Premier League spending. They have the makings of a decent side, but £4 million would only buy one half-decent player and Burnley need more than that to consolidate their early season success.
On his way out of the Reebok Stadium, sacked manager Gary Megson highlighted that his tenure had secured the financial future of Bolton. It seems his successor will benefit from a swollen transfer budget because of this, the amount is unclear—but it could be in the region of £12-15 million.
Bolton’s squad does need investment, but if Coyle can sign a couple of his star performers from the Clarets at a reasonable price, then they would look a decent side. Depending on the scale of the raid, he could also have some more money to play with.
But the real reason why this move would be good for Coyle is that he is jumping ship at the right time. His Burnley side started the season well, but their last win in the league was against Hull City at home. That was ten games ago, on Oct. 31.
Burnley have started to slide, and Coyle has wagered that he won’t be able to reverse their fortunes with an injection of £4m. It’s probably an accurate assessment.
You only have to look at the career of a certain Aidy Boothroyd to realise that loyalty in football management isn’t the best strategy. Boothroyd brought Watford into the Premier League with a side playing an attacking style of football, had a chance to leave for an established side, opted to stay, and the rest is history.
Boothroyd now manages League One side Colchester United, that’s the third tier of English football.
Coyle has seen an opportunity at Bolton and is about to seize it with both hands. There are lots of better clubs in the Premier League than the Trotters, but none of those clubs have a management vacancy now. Besides, there aren’t many clubs that would go for Coyle, even if they did.
Bolton are in the relegation zone right now, but they are two points behind Burnley with two games in hand. Chances are they won’t be in that position once May rolls around. Even if Burnley do manage to survive themselves, the long-term prospects don’t look good.
Coyle is making the right decision, even if it would be nice to see him stick around to finish what he started with the Clarets.