Owen Coyle’s departure from Bolton was to be expected. Lying in 18th place in the English Football League Championship and with only 3 wins in the last 10 games, it was time for a change for The Trotters. Coyle, a former Bolton player, was handed the reigns at The Reebok Stadium in January 2010 following the departure of under performing coach Gary Megson. Phil Gartside (Chairman), hired Coyle from Burnley where he had excelled as their manager and led the club into the Premiership for the first time on a shoe string budget which appealed to Gartside and owner Eddie Davies. Ironically, Gartside had overlooked Coyle in favour of Megson some 3 years earlier when the former Republic of Ireland striker was coach at St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership.
After his appointment, Coyle took it about himself to connect with his players and coaching staff and create a family atmosphere within the club which helped in his efforts to keep Bolton in the Premiership. In his first season in charge, he steered the club to a 14th place finish and watch his old club, Burnley, now under manager Brian Laws, relegated. His second season would not be as fruitful, despite his best efforts. Coyle’s eye for a bargain in the transfer market saw him capture Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov (below) from Manchester City and Croatian striker Ivan Klasnic from Nantes, both for free, the latter having spend the previous season on loan at the club. Their flair and goals looked like it would be enough to secure Bolton’s place in the Premiership for one more year but it wasn’t to be. The Trotters were relegated at the end of the season, following a 2-2 draw with Stoke City.
It was an extremely difficult season, with Bolton struggling to cope with the loss of key players through injury and psychologically trying to recover from the awful events of 17th March 2012, when 24-year-old star midfielder Fabrice Muamba, collapsed on the pitch during a cup tie against Tottenham, after suffering a cardiac arrest. Muamba would have certainly died that day if it wasn’t for the brave efforts of two doctors in attendance at the game but survived and made a full recovery, although was forced to retire from the game under doctor’s advice. Coyle’s handling of the situation and his strength throughout a difficult period in the club’s history gained him praise from players and managers alike as he gave regular updates on the recovery of Muamba (below) from outside London’s Chest Hospital.
With Coyle’s departure, Bolton will be searching for a new manager, with Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane the early front-runners. Whilst the Bolton fans felt that it was time for a change, they will watch their former player and manager depart with a sense of pride, knowing that he had poured his heart and soul into the club and given everything he could during his 2 years in charge.