From Bolton to Bambolim, Coyle looks to script history with Red Miners
After a season that saw his side narrowly miss out on a semi-finals berth, Owen Coyle would have his eyes set on the top-four spots this time around, as he settles into his second full season, and third overall, as a manager in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL).
He garnered instant plaudits when he arrived in India, as he masterminded a near impossible turnaround for Chennaiyin FC in the 2019-20 season, taking them from the bottom of the table after match week six, to the finals of that edition. The ex-Burnley FC manager would be hoping to steer a club that has consistently displayed great potential, into their first-ever playoffs.
Coyle was a striker in his playing days and featured for several clubs in the United Kingdom like Bolton Wanderers, Dundee United, Motherwell FC and Falkirk FC. His career spanned over two decades, and he scored more than 300 goals. He has also been capped internationally by the Republic of Ireland.
He was introduced to coaching at Scottish clubs Falkirk and Airdrie United, and his first managerial role was at St Johnstone in the Scottish second tier in 2005. He spent two seasons with the club and missed out on promotion in the 2006-07 season by fine margins.
His impressive performances were spotted by then Championship club, Burnley FC, who appointed him as their manager in November 2007. Coyle helped Burnley earn promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 33 years, in his first season in charge. He also led his side to a 1-0 win against giants Manchester United at Turf Moor, which was Burnley’s first top-flight home game since 1976.
He moved to fellow Premier League side Bolton Wanderers whom he took to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in the 2011-12 season. He succeeded an outgoing Roberto Martinez in 2013, when he signed for Wigan Athletic. He had subsequent spells at Houston Dynamo, Blackburn Rovers and Ross County before he made the switch to India.
Chennaiyin FC roped in the Scot midway through the 2019-20 season as a replacement for John Gregory. He turned around the club’s fortunes, as the Marina Machans went on an unbeaten run of nine games to secure a semi-finals berth and also featured in the finals of the Hero ISL 2019-20, finishing as the runners-up.
Jamshedpur FC acquired his services ahead of the 2020-21 season, and the gaffer led the Red Miners to a 6th place finish in the league and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
He preferred playing with a 4-3-3 formation and its variations at Jamshedpur in the 2020-21 season, which was a slight change from 4-2-3-1 that he used while at Chennaiyin. Nerijus Valskis was spearheading the attack for Coyle, with players like Seiminlen Doungel, Farukh Choudhary and Aniket Jadhav accompanying him.
Aitor Monroy was an indispensable part of his team last year, as the Spaniard was the creative spark in midfield while also working tirelessly off the ball. The gaffer made use of Brazilian Alex Lima in various positions across the season, as he featured in midfield, on the flanks, and as the second striker, too.
Coyle has a win percentage of 43% in his time in India, having managed 35 games since his arrival in the 2019-20 season. His Jamshedpur side had major issues upfront last season, as they scored a paltry 21 goals from their 20 games, which was the second-lowest in the league.
Although they had problems in the final third, the Men of Steel looked solid in defence, conceding just 22 goals and keeping 8 clean sheets.
"We certainly look to have competition (within the team), but be solid at the back and have that creative threat. There are going to be some wonderful teams in the league but we showed last year (we can beat anyone) on our own when we've been at our very best," said Coyle on Let’s Football Live about what he expects from his team going into the new season.
Satisfied with pre-season preparations and the club’s transfer activity, the gaffer seems optimistic about his side’s prospects of having a successful campaign in the eighth edition of the Hero ISL.