Owen Coyle faces some significant challenges if he is to get Wigan Athletic back into the Premier League at the first attempt. The former Bolton boss has taken over from FA Cup winning manager Roberto Martinez in difficult circumstances. Following relegation the Latics have already lost several out of contract players and may lose some of their star names before the new season commences on 3rd August.
Coyle’s appointment as manager was not well received by some fans. Appointing the former manager of your nearest rivals is a risky strategy by Wigan owner Dave Whelan and if the season does not start well the fans could make the new manager’s job even more difficult.
Roberto Martinez was a very likeable manager and his achievement in winning the FA Cup and his victories against all the top Premier League outfits makes him a difficult act to follow. The shorts wearing Scotsman could soon be framed in sharp contrast to the smartly dressed and media friendly Spaniard.
Martinez created an attractive playing style during his four seasons in charge. He was one of the first managers to introduce the Spanish playing style into the English Premier League, convincing many that if the club was to progress, this was the right way to play. However, the new manager is likely to impose a new style of play on the Latics players, and it could take some time for Coyle’s preferred formation of 4-4-2 to bed in.
Coyle was successful in gaining promotion with Burnley in 2009, but he had a mixed time at the Reebok, following his acrimonious move from the Clarets, achieving a 14th place finish in 2010/11. During his second season in charge they struggled and were relegated to the Championship in May 2012. After a poor start to the Championship campaign, Coyle’s time at the Reebok Stadium came to an end in October 2012. During his time at Bolton he had a win rate of 33%. During 126 games in charge he won 42, drew 24 and lost 60.
Some critics have pointed out that Bolton fell into disrepair during the latter part of Coyle’s tenure. Dougie Freedman’s successful approach since he arrived from Crystal Palace has only served to accentuate the former manager’s failings at the Reebok. Coyle’s approaches to training, organisation, recruitment and injury prevention have all been criticised by the Trotters fans. The Glaswegian now has the not inconsiderable of task of proving his critics wrong, reviving his career and getting Wigan promoted.
It is looking likely that Martinez will take the out of contract Antolin Alcaraz to Goodison Park and it may be that he will return of some of his other stars. Coyle must therefore do everything in his power to resist the temptation to cash in on his best players. The Spaniard has already taken his backroom staff to Everton, so Coyle should be careful not to allow the flow of players out of the club to become a hemorrhage.
He should also be careful with who he appoints onto his coaching staff at Wigan. Some might say that it was the coaching staff who played a part in Coyle’s downfall at Wanderers and it was when the subject of bringing in Sammy Lee to the first-team set-up was raised that the cracks started to appear in Coyle’s regime.
Because Wigan have such a high number of fixtures in the Championship plus Europa League and cup games, Coyle is likely to need at least 9 or 10 players to rejuvenate the squad and mount a serious challenge for promotion.
Attracting players of the right quality will be crucial. Coyle has previously made mistakes in the transfer market with players such as Marvin Sordell and Matt Mills but he has also had successes in the loan market with Jack Wilshere and Dean Sturridge.
The Scotsman’s strength lies in man motivation and, at his best, an ability to get the best out of younger players. Wigan already have some exciting young players such as Callum McManaman, and Fraser Fyvie, and Coyle will no doubt want to add to the youthful profile.
Bolton’s demise was partly blamed on a dreadful run of injuries and misfortune that seemed to follow the club, with Stuart Holden out for a long period and Fabrice Muamba’s heart attack being the most obvious ones.
The confidence sapping 5-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat against Stoke City in April 2011 also had a significant impact on Wanderers fortunes. After the Wembley nightmare nothing was quite the same, and the confidence and organisation the manager had instilled into his players began to leak away. Building confidence is a big part of the Owen Coyle’s agenda as a manager and if that confidence takes a knock, as it did after the 5-0 defeat by Stoke, it becomes difficult to regain the confidence of his players.
The Championship is a notoriously difficult division, but one factor which should assist Coyle’s task at Wigan, is the high number of Scots in the squad. Gary Caldwell, James McArthur, Shaun Maloney, Fraser Fyvie and James McCarthy (born in Scotland but represents Republic of Ireland), should all make him feel at home.
Coyle does have unwavering positivity – despite some failings, he remains convinced he can succeed. He has a strong work ethic and knows what it takes to get a team promoted from the Championship. If he can convince key players such as Arouna Kone, James McCarthy, Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman that their future lies with the Latics then the prospects will look much brighter.