CHENNAI: Not many believed Owen Coyle was a contender to replace John Gregory as Chennaiyin FC coach. Even those who have followed the former Burnley and Bolton Wanderers coach’s career over the recent years would have doubted if he would make a move to India, of all the places. After all, the only time he took a management job away from the British Isles (with MLS side Houston Dynamos in 2014), he returned home after a season-and-half feeling homesick.
Chennaiyin fans can relax though, for Coyle, announced as the club’s new boss late on Tuesday, explains that the circumstances were totally different. “What happened was when I left Houston Dynamo, my oldest daughter was having her first child; my first grandchild,” he says. “So that was the primary reason I decided to move back home. The family were coming back and forth. I only do two things – football and family. That’s most important to me!”
Coyle, unlike Gregory, may not have managed all over the world, but his resume is much more impressive — he even has a couple of Premier League manager of the month awards to his name. The Scotsman, who played international football for the Republic of Ireland, first shot to fame as manager of Championship side Burnley in 2007 when he took them to the FA Cup semifinal, beating Arsenal and Chelsea along the way, losing only to Tottenham in the last four in extra time. A couple of years later, he steered Burnley into the Premier League. Midway through that season, he left the club to manage Bolton Wanderers and guided them to mid-table security for the first couple of seasons. At this point, Coyle was even touted as a future manager of one of the big teams.
That was where things began to fall apart though. Bolton was relegated and Coyle left soon after. Subsequent stints at Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers proved unsuccessful. His last job was as the manager of Scottish Premiership outfit Ross County, from where he resigned in 2018.
ISL represents a fresh break for Coyle, who is awaiting his visa and will likely join the squad before they travel to the next game against Jamshedpur FC. “I’ve followed the Indian Super League over the years, since its inception, truth be told,” he says. “There have always been many friends and colleagues involved in it. I have played with some of the coaches who’ve been at the ISL, Steve Coppell and Phil Brown for instance. I also have few of my former players like (Hyderabad FC’s) Giles Barnes and (ATK’s) Agus playing here.”
His philosophy will come as music to the years of the likes of Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte for Coyle derives a particular thrill in developing youngsters. “I’ve always loved developing young players,” Coyle says. “Part of my objective is looking to develop the infrastructure while developing our own young players. As that also helps build the identity with the fans, they see a boy who grew up locally and now is everything the club stands for.”
Wednesday’s result: Odisha FC 0 Bengaluru FC 1 (Juanan 36’).