Bolton Wanderers have today announced the departure of manager Owen Coyle from the club, following a poor start to the season that has seen the early Championship favourites pick up just eleven points from the opening ten games.
Languishing in 18th place in the table, the patience of Phil Gartside has clearly run out, leaving the club on the hunt for a saviour to revive their promotion hopes.
It is mystifying to witness the decline of Bolton under Coyle, such was his bulging reputation when he joined the Wanderers from Burnley. Having led the Turf Moor outfit to the Premier League in 2009, he then continued his strong work at the club in the first half of the season leading the club to a lofty mid table position. Such work exceeded the expectations of media figures and fans, elevating his status to one of the best young managers in the game.
At this point reports of interest from other Premier League clubs began to saunter through. Liverpool were said to be holding an interest and Bolton were desperate to replace the dour style of Gary Megson with a more expansive, entertaining manager. Some were even suggesting the Scot to be a natural successor to Sir Alex at Old Trafford. In the end Coyle chose Bolton, of whom he had a personal affinity with having played for the club for two years in the early nineties.
Initial indications were that club and player were the perfect match. As Burnley began to falter under their new manager, Brian Laws, Bolton's result began to pick up as they finished the season in 14th with the help of Arsenal's Jack Wilshere. His second season saw the club finish in 14th place once again, as Coyle once again used the loan system to great effect, in this case picking up Daniel Sturridge on loan from Chelsea who would go on to score many vital goals in his five month spell.
Gartside seemed happy; the club wasn't exactly improving but it wasn't in decline. Or so it appeared. 2011/12 started well with a 4-0 thumping of newly promoted QPR but was then followed by a disastrous run of six league defeats in a row. To be fair in that six game period opponents included Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea, but it was also the manner of the performances that disappointed - In five of the six games Coyle's side conceded three goals or more.
Poor results continued and the Trotters entered 2012 with just 13 points to their name, languishing at the bottom of the league. Despite struggling so heavily, Bolton barely dipped into the transfer market in January with the untried and untested pairing of Tim Ream and Marvin Sordell joining the club from New York Red Bulls and Watford respectively.
Nevertheless results picked up and decent wins were achieved over both Merseyside club, whilst a draw against Arsenal also provided relief on the suffering fans. Approaching the end of the season, form indicated that Bolton may stay up but a draw against West Brom in the penultimate game left their hopes in the hands of Man City beating QPR whilst they had to defeat Stoke at the Britannia.
We all know how that final day of the season turned out, Walters 76th minute equaliser from the spot condemning Bolton to relegation despite QPR's failure to pick up points at City.
A clear out followed this Summer that saw club favourite Jussi Jaaskelainen, Ricardo Gardner, Gretar Steinsson and Ivan Klasnic - amongst others - depart for pastures new. Fabrics Muamba then confirmed the news that we all expected, his retirement from the game following the after effects of that harrowing night at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup tie between the two sides.
All the same Bolton headed into the new season as favourites to take the title, a superior squad evident on paper. Unfortunately for Bolton fans paper doesn't necessarily do the talking and a series of unconvincing displays have seen the rising star of Owen Coyle diminish, eventually concluding in his departure.
The writing has been on the wall for some time now following a variety of peculiar decisions that many Bolton fans struggled to fathom. The decision to replace two Premier League quality keepers - Jaaskelainen and Ali Al-Habsi - for the unproven and sometimes erratic Adam Bogdan had many scratching their heads. Likewise the obsession with playing David N'Gog up front constantly, despite the Frenchman producing little contribution. It could even be queried as to why Coyle signed N'Gog in the first place such was the distaste that Liverpool fans showed the striker whilst at their club.
Today's announcement draws a line under the sorry affair of Bolton's recent history and offers both the club and Owen Coyle a fresh chance to move on. Where Coyle will go now, who knows?
He's certainly not as attractive a prospect as he once was, but his Burnley work shows he is more than capable. A lower league club could certainly do a lot worse than providing the Scot with a chance of redemption on the fickle line between success and failure.
image: © Matthew Wilkinson