The Man of the People is no more

Last updated : 12 January 2010 By Tony Scholes
Owen Coyle with those Burnley fans who are still backing him in the background

Less than a week ago, in my review of 2009, I reported that I'd sat and watched the play off final again in its entirety and saw Owen Coyle's Claret and Blue Army win promotion to the Premier League.

Long before that day in May I'd been won over by the style of football we were playing. There were some outstanding displays. Even after Wembley the best was yet to come and I'm still enthusing about the stunning game I saw just three weeks ago when we drew 1-1 with Arsenal.

Yes, after some initial doubts, Coyle's brand of football had definitely won me over. The big question mark I always had was whether he himself had won me over. In all my dealings with him he was never anything but courteous and pleasant but for some reason there were always some nagging doubts.

One of those nagging doubts came in the (rather large) shape of journalist Alan Nixon. Some couldn't quite imagine how this tittle tattle tabloid reporter who called himself a Coyleite always seemed to have the Burnley exclusives.

Back in January 2008 he even had the front page lead one Sunday morning in the People revealing that Andrew Cole was on his way. It turned out that he was a good friend of our manager and was the journalist who was granted all the exclusives, way ahead of any other national journalist and the locals. It was even Nixon who was chosen to welcome Coyle to Burnley in the match programme for his first game.

I soon came to realise that what Nixon was saying was accurate and as time went on I was stunned that someone at Burnley Football Club didn't do anything about it. When he wasn't claiming exclusives in his articles he was very shabbily leaking information about our club on a Blackburn Rovers fans site message board.

For a web site editor it was great for me. Having infiltrated that board I was able to claim a Chris Eagles exclusive linking him with a move to Burnley, I was the first to reveal Diego Penny and for many of the deals I was very much on the ball thanks to those leaks. He even won me a few quid with the appointment of Scolari as Chelsea manager.

It was an unhealthy relationship between these two, and my concerns over the integrity of our manager remained mainly because of this. Not for one minute did I ever believe he didn't know what Nixon was doing, I suspected he was encouraging it and more than once it was my opinion that they were working in a way to unsettle players Coyle wanted to bring to Burnley.

Despite my concerns, I was selfishly getting my exclusives or at least getting information no longer afforded me by the club, and on the other side of the coin the football was beginning to get better so everything in my garden was rosy.

There were some great days watching Burnley. Chelsea and Arsenal in the cup, Reading and Wembley, then some of the home games this season.

Coyle was becoming a star. His stock was rising in the media and certainly with the fans and you could rest assured he'd always take the final curtain call at the end of a big win, no matter who'd been the star performer.

Being a football fan, you want to see your team win first, and secondly you want to see them win well. Anything else for most of the time doesn't matter. However, you just had to listen to what he had to say.

More often than not he said very little, just the same over and over again although it seemed to appease most. Recently his whinging about the budgets became like a stuck record. He even told us that Mick McCarthy laughed at our budget. Why on earth did Mick McCarthy even know about it?

Coyle is very media savvy; he's a sound bite man. He very skilfully worked himself around the Celtic situation in the summer; a job I remain convinced he wanted although he confirmed at a Clarets Mad evening that he didn't. He sat there and told downright lies when the Bolton job suddenly became vacant. His interview just a week ago on Sky can now be seen as nothing else other than an insult to every Burnley supporter.

Then, finally, his last public appearance. It was clear things were different. He hardly got up from his seat throughout the entire game, his appearance on the pitch afterwards was pure nonsense and his failure to turn up for the interviews was embarrassing for our club.

Eventually, the man came clean, once he knew he nailed the Bolton job, or so he thought. Right now he's stuck tending his garden, no mean task in this weather, but will he be reflecting on what he's done? Probably not, he and Nixon will be preparing for the next stage of 'Coyle the top manager' with another charm offensive in the media.

Football wise we can't knock him. Just look where we are, living the dream and playing Premier League football, but Burnley Football Club is a better place this week for Owen Coyle not being with us any longer.

The focus at our club is now on others. Firstly Steve Davis. He will be in caretaker charge for the home game against Stoke. I can't believe there is a Burnley fan anywhere that won't get behind Steve and the team on Saturday.

Then there is Barry Kilby. I spoke with him yesterday and being a fan like the rest of us he will feel just as let down as we do, he will be hurting just as much. But to add to all that he now has the task of putting it all right and finding a replacement. Hopefully a replacement with more integrity.

During my time as editor of Clarets Mad we have had three managers. I certainly had my rows with the first two - Stan Ternent and Steve Cotterill - but I'll tell you what, they are both twice the man Owen Coyle will ever be.

The man of the people is no longer and thankfully he'll be taking the other man of the People with him.