Always look on the bright side of life -

Last updated : 04 February 2010 By Dave Thomas

It could be the club anthem, the song we sing before every game like Stoke fans sing Delilah, the song we sing after a game when we have lost, when the pies run out, when the weather is foul and the rain lashes into our faces, or when we sit in the car park fuming after every game for half an hour to let the away fans out. God knows, Wembley apart, we've had some rough times as supporters over the last 30-odd years. We should stand outside Barry's house and sing it to cheer him up. God knows how he felt when Coyle upped sticks and departed for Horwich Lumpit Wanderers and it's all water under the bridge now.

Anway, thus does football go on, thus does it continue and will forever do so; just like debt and overspending and skulduggery and tax evasion and footballers drowning in bling driving Ferraris and Sven and Blatter and Arab sheiks and the joke that is Portsmouth and Mick McCarthy's nose and Sir Alex grumbling at referees yet again. It's a funny old game so therefore we who love it must be funny folk.

Reading through all those pious outpourings again such as: "I knew I had to stay and carry on this incredible adventure." I began to realise that in fact he was just a (pardon my language) bullshitter. I wondered too if Burnley's promotion was the result not of managerial genius, but, the result of everything coming together in that last month so miraculously; like in some Thomas Hardy novel it was simply decreed in the great universal scheme of things that this will happen or that. Things that we needed to go our way actually went our way. Every single thing that needed to happen actually happened. Everything the team did, worked. A leaky defence stopped conceding goals. A striker who'd had a barren spell scored the goal of the decade at Reading. Were there not penalties when we most needed them? And where in fact did those consecutive clean sheets come from? Were they the result of a managerial mastermind or simply, just for once at BFC, everything going right on the day? Just where did all that unusually good, exceptional luck come from? Can any of us really work out how we actually did it? Good God in the Wembley game we even had a ref on our side for once, not that I'm grumbling. It was about bloody time.

The newspapers found great material in it all of course. I filled three scrapbooks with Bolton stuff alone. Pundits' articles poured out by the dozen until you were weary of them. But one made me laugh when it described our departed hero as belonging to the Kevin Keegan School of Management: "Never mind, if you score four then we'll score three."

I thought that was rather sad when I found myself surprisingly prepared to laugh at him when I read that little Keegan bit. Of course he didn't do the same as John Bond in the 80s and make a real mess of things, in fact he did the oppposite, but it was suggested that in just the same way that that John Bond (who once famously disguised himself to avoid detection), would never be welcomed in Burnley again, Coyle would not exactly be greeted with open arms either.

Bit by bit we all came round to wanting to draw a line under it all and that there were better things to do and still many things to look forward to. I liked what Skipper Caldwell said on the club website, the nub of which was. "He's gone. There is no person bigger than the club and we move on with the players we have here… Part of our history has ended but we look forward to creating our own history and a better history." If the new man can take us further, he added, then that would be a fantastic achievement. I liked what Alexander said: "We play for Burnley. It wasn't down to one man." He added that there were a lot of other people behind the scenes responsible for the success they'd had. I see a manager there one day. Davis as manager and Alexander as assistant, I might just settle for that.

And who will the new man be, we wondered? That's the next thing to look forward to. Don't forget our last bloke went eight games without a win; time to get rid anyway. It's a funny old game… Megson went four unbeaten and he was sacked. When asked the question at a news conference who the new man might be: "Well, now we start the beauty parade," answered the Chairman Barry Kilby with a droll smile on his face. He spoke well, with restraint and dignity, of shock and trauma and the unwelcome approach. At their meeting Coyle had told Kilby that he felt Bolton was his best chance of continuing to manage in the Premiership (dear God what a thing to say guaranteed to lose him friends) and that he would only have left for Bolton or Celtic. It seemed safe to assume, hearing that, that at the first opportunity he would leave Bolton in mid-stream as well, if the chance arose to join Celtic. How long does Mowbray have there, we all asked?

Anyway the signs for us were good. You will remember that Coyle left St Johnstone to join Burnley when they were just about to play in the Final of the Scottish Challenge Cup. St Johnstone won that trophy. All of us, reading the tea-leaves, therefore took this with true gallows humour that we would go on and win the Premiership, or at least the Isle of Man Steam Packet Pre-Season Tournament Trophy in the summer.

Let's move on was the impassioned plea from those who'd had enough of the whole sorry episode, and rightly so. Enough words were written, enough ink wasted, and I've been as guilty as anyone of that. Let's think about the new man and pledge our loyalty and support (though I'm not too disappointed it won't be Darren Ferguson), we all agreed. The club comes first. The club is the club… not a manager, not the players, not any individual. The club is a history; it is bricks and mortar and tradition, an icon and a centre of the community. It is a constant whilst everything else comes and goes or shifts and moves.

Final confirmation of Clooney's appointment came on Friday afternoon, January 8th. Whatever the compensation was, it was settled. The announcement was made. He was now Bolton's manager. The once revered man, no matter what his achievements at Burnley, was yesterday's man and reviled for walking out not just on a club but a town. I'm a rational man, not prone to over-reaction or histrionics, sssssh a retired headmaster, reasonably intelligent (my wife might disagree), pillar of the community and all that, but I decided that at the first sight of the odious, smarmy man on Sky Sports News in a Bolton feature I would switch it off. And tell you what; my tickets are booked for the Horwich game.

"He's home," said Bolton chairman Phil Gartside. What tosh. What absolute crackpot nonsense. Coyle was there just two years. Has he ever been anywhere for any real length of time? What was that famous old joke? "He's had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus." How long will he be at Bolton, we asked. Not bloody long we answered if history is anything to go by.

The game that we desperately wanted to go ahead versus Stoke City was postponed because of ice and snow. How we so desperately wanted to play that game and win it. Never mind.

We waited to see who the new man would be. "They've been knocking at the door already," said Flood. And then when Barry mentioned beauty, I did think (forgive me for such thoughts), that it probably wouldn't be Peter Reid or Paul Jewell and it did seem strange that Gary Neville's name came into the frame if it was going to be a beauty parade.

Tell you what though - I wouldn't mind if Carole Vorderman was in it.

Always look on the bright side of life… de dum, de dum, de dum, de dum, de dum…

Last one to leave switch off the lights please

January the 9th and we were supposed to be playing Stoke City. The pitch was fine according to reports but the stadium was surrounded by ice locked streets and pavements.

The nanny state ruled supreme on this one. 20,000 people were thought to be incapable of getting to the stadium without mishaps and legal actions for broken legs and arms. Game called off then. I was desperate for it to be played and would have sledged from Leeds to get there if necessary.

Every one of us wanted to draw a line under the Bolton affair and Coyle's departure. But nagging questions would not go away and the affair was far from finished. On websites and texts and in the Press the main questions were these:

Just exactly when did Gartside and Coyle first discuss the possibility of the move, or make contact via a third party?

What was journalist Alan Nixon's role in all this bearing in mind it was he who was instrumental in getting Coyle the Burnley job in the first place?

Why would any Burnley Board member give a rival club permission to speak to their most successful manager in 50 years?

Did that Burnley Board member exceed his responsibilities by disclosing Coyle's phone number to Gartside and sanctioning the 'informal chat' they had in Scotland?

Was it agreed by other board members that he should do this or did he act alone?

Why was early contact not chairman to chairman?

How much went on without Barry Kilby's knowledge whilst he was away?

How much of a compromise was the approximate £1 million Burnley received in compensation?

Was this low figure the result of Burnley's legal people advising them to settle for what they could get, because the terms of employment and contract had been unwittingly compromised by Burnley themselves?

Did the League Managers' Association advise Coyle that because his contract terms had been 'compromised' he could just 'walk' if he so chose?

Was it correct that Coyle insisted that Bolton pay the compensation to Burnley?

How much truth was in the story that Flood exceeded his brief by offering to match any offer made to Coyle by Gartside?

Will we rank and file, ever know what really happened, I wondered? I'd like to think one day we will. We all bought into the dream and in that sense we are all shareholders.

Alan Nixon's piece in the Sunday People on Sunday the 10th "telling the whole story" was perhaps what we might have expected it to be, in effect a whitewash, designed to present Coyle in the best possible light and as a man in tears with a heavy heart when he left, collecting precious mementos as he cleared his desk. I was nearly in tears myself. Yet, it was difficult to find any other journalist who wasn't critical in one way or another. More than one of them used the word 'Judas' just as Burnley fans had done.

Piers Morgan in the Sunday Mail was probably the hardest hitting, describing Coyle's behaviour as "utterly disgraceful…. For a few pieces of mercenary silver he has betrayed everyone with whom he worked and everyone who admired him. He talked all the talk about how he loved the club, the fans, the town. What can you say about a man who seemed to epitomise all that is solid, reliable and loyal about the game… but who turned out to be Judas Iscariot in a claret and blue scarf?"

As if we weren't reeling already: It was becoming difficult to keep up with developments they were coming so fast. The news was then released that as well as Sandy Stewart and John Henry, Steve Davis and Phil Hughes would also leave for Bolton, plus for good measure Chief Scout Cliff Roberts (although it was unclear if he had actually gone to Bolton).

I re-read the story of the Pied Piper to see if there were any similarities. If this was not the systematic rape of a football club when it was already on its knees, then nothing was. All of us know what football is like and how it can operate, but never in the history of the game can pillage so wholesale as this have ever taken place, as one by one a complete management team was picked off at the worst possible time in mid-season, by one relegation candidate from another. You could scour a thesaurus to find adequate words and not find them.

Next up was the news that the assistant kit-man had gone. Add to that the emerging stories that even the bulbs and paper clips had gone from the office; he would move for players Eagles and Mears and maybe McCann in the summer; and it defied description. And this by the man of honour and integrity, who claimed that he had given his heart and soul to the club. And, all sparked by Director Flood giving Gartside permission to have an informal chat with Coyle, or as we will forever ask, was it mooted even before that? Nobody is convinced that it wasn't, despite the full page article in the People headlined THE TRUTH, tabloid headlining at its garish worst. I truly felt for Barry Kilby who must have been on his knees on Sunday the 10th. But we hadn't finished yet. There were unconfirmed reports that the medical staff, the physios and the prozone guy would be leaving for Lumpit Wanderers.

More events took place the same day with the announcement that Martin Dobson would be in temporary charge assisted by Terry Pashley, Steven Caldwell and Graham Alexander. It instantly brought a sense of order and organisation back to the club. Could Martin Dobson in his wildest dreams ever have envisaged this? He had only been brought into the club's youth set-up a matter of just a few months earlier. There is a generation of supporters who always wanted one day to see him as Burnley manager. There is a different generation of supporters who have no idea just what a supreme player he was, how many games he played for Burnley, how he was part of Adamson's wonderful team of the early 70s, how he was more or less forced out of the club by John Bond after he had come back for a second spell, how he took Bury to promotion as manager, became a scout for Ipswich, and was finally in charge of the academy at Bolton of all places. It was Bolton who rejected him as a youth. Life works in funny ways. If you wanted a man who knew his football, was elegant, articulate and dignified you could not have picked a better man.

The list of possible new manager candidates ebbed and flowed and the odds at the bookies went up and down faster than a ton weight on a trampoline. Simon Grayson came into it, Brian Laws was the favourite for a while, Lambert at Norwich ruled himself out, Holloway at Blackpool ruled himself out; Coppell was mentioned less and less. Curbishley, Reid and Jewell became the forgotten men. Hughes at Hibs vanished. But then Lee Clark at Huddersfield entered the frame. Somebody's Huddersfield pal waxed lyrical about him and said he had them playing good, open attractive football, great at home but rubbish away. Sounds just right for us then, he said. Even Gary Neville got a mention. But Burnley's own Steve Davis, once in the running, had departed for Gartside's shilling at Bolton. The Sun reported that a shock candidate was Paul Ince currently at MK Dons.

Because journalist Alan Nixon had so far got most things right we looked with interest at his tip that Simon Grayson was the man. But then this morphed into Sean O'Driscoll from Doncaster. We also heard Nixon had been banned from Turf Moor. But if that was the case it begged the question why not ban Coyle as well… and Gartside for good measure… and anyone else who had contributed to the mass exodus.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, if taken at the flood, leads on to fortune," wrote Shakespeare. I wonder if Gartside has that quote in a frame over his bed.

Oh, and will the last one to leave the club please turn out the light. If it's still there.