Tuesday, January 26, 2010

After Owen Coyle's decision a few weeks back to leave Burnley for pastures of old at Bolton, one of our most anticipated ties for the remainder of the season was when the two Lancashire sides would clash again on league business. Tonight was that night.

Having met at Turf Moor just after Christmas, where the teams played out a 1-1 draw, Coyle would no doubt have been thankful that the first time he came up against his former team would be at his new Reebok home. That should have given him a much less hostile reception, but with 5,000 travelling fans making the journey to Bolton, this wasn't to prove to be the case.

With Coyle worshipped at Burnley, and the man almost single handedly behind their meteoric rise to the top flight, I had wondered what kind of reception he would get from the travelling Burnley fans. It wasn't that long ago after all that the Burnley fans were everywhere with their "Coyle Is God" signs.

Would they give him respect and applause for what he had done for the Club or could there be no forgiveness for what they viewed as being stabbed in the back by the lure of cash?

Within seconds of seeing the game, you were left in no doubt as to what the Burnley fans felt. A crescendo of boos from the travelling support at Coyle's appearance, followed by "Judas" chants throughout the game and a selection of banners conveying feelings such as "Never Forgotten, Never Forgiven". There was hate and feelings of betrayal in the air.

The Bolton fans on the other hand rubbed more salt in the claret and blue wounds with their "Owen Coyle's Blue and White Army" chants.

It's a hard situation to comment on rationally. Us football fans are a fickle lot, sometimes giving the impression of short memories. Managers and players who were once cherished and loved by all, soon become hate figures and loathed for what the fans deem as a slight on them and shaming their Club. After all, no one man is bigger than the beloved Club we support.

On many occasions, the initial period of hate fades into respect, wonderful memories and acknowledgement and reverement of the manager/player for what they have given to their side over the years and for all the glory, achievements and committment they gave.

As an outsider and non passionate football fan looking in on the Burnley/Coyle situation you may wonder how fans could have such short memories and be so unappreciative of what Coyle did for the Club. As a fan though, you fully understand. It shouldn't really be the case, but you get it totally. You also have to factor in that to all intense and purposes it was sideways move for Coyle, so what was really behind his decision to go?

It made me think of how East Fife fans reacted when Davie Clarke decided to leave us for Falkirk in 1987. A Club servant since 1968, as first a player and then a manager. He single handedly rebuilt the Club, restored pride and success and just fell short on the last day of the season in trying to get us into the Scottish Premier Division.

When he left near the end of the 86/87 season (February to be exact) to go to Brockville and try and prevent Falkirk from relegation (the side that had just pipped us for promotion), it wasn't a full hate on like with Coyle but there was a lot of anger and resentment at Clarke for going. It was then made worse when he raided our side for players.

I remember running a cartoon in AFTN when we first started off branding him a traitor to the East Fife cause. After all, his departure left us, through no real fault of his, with the abysmal Gavin Murray regime - a man who almost single handedly destroyed what Clarke had spent years building.

When Clarke did manage to save the Bairns from relegation, there were few of a black and gold persuasion that felt really happy for him.

Now Clarke is revered and rightly worhsipped for what he achieved and we are forever in his debt and gratitude for what he gave East Fife. The passing of time does wonders to fans opinions and I'm sure that this is what Owen Coyle will find and he deserves to get all the plaudits he should get to be honest.

Coyle still holds Burnley dearly, as his after match comments show and his decision to go towards and applaud the travelling support after the final whistle was clearly from the heart, but not well received.

It was a hostile reception and night for Coyle, as he watched his new side run out 1-0 winners in a less than inspiring game.

The win took Bolton out of the bottom three and plunged Burnley into it and into real trouble.

Owen Coyle had almost talismanic qualities for Burnley. His departure has left a huge hole and it's seemingly growing increasingly more likely that the Clarets are not going to be able to recover from it.

We'd love Burnley to stay up. Their style of play deserves it and it's what fans of smaller clubs UK wide would love to see. It would be a victory for the little guy.

Without Coyle though, they're going to struggle big time and perhaps that realisation is behind some of the hatred directed at Coyle.

It's certainly looking bleak at Turf Moor for the remainder of the season.

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