Anway, thus does football go on, thus does it continue and will forever do so; just like debt and overspending and skulduggery and tax evasion and footballers drowning in bling driving Ferraris and Sven and Blatter and Arab sheiks and the joke that is Portsmouth and Mick McCarthy’s nose and Sir Alex grumbling at referees yet again. It’s a funny old game so therefore we who love it must be funny folk.
Reading through all those pious outpourings again such as: “I knew I had to stay and carry on this incredible adventure.”I began to realise that in fact he was just a (pardon my language) bullshitter. I wondered too if Burnley’s promotion was the result not of managerial genius, but, the result of everything coming together in that last month so miraculously; like in some Thomas Hardy novel it was simply decreed in the great universal scheme of things that this will happen or that. Things that we needed to go our way actually went our way. Every single thing that needed to happen actually happened. Everything the team did, worked. A leaky defence stopped conceding goals. A striker who’d had a barren spell scored the goal of the decade at Reading. Were there not penalties when we most needed them? And where in fact did those consecutive clean sheets come from? Were they the result of a managerial mastermind or simply, just for once at BFC, everything going right on the day? Just where did all that unusually good, exceptional luck come from? Can any of us really work out how we actually did it? Good God in the Wembley game we even had a ref on our side for once, not that I’m grumbling. It was about bloody time.
The newspapers found great material in it all of course. I filled three scrapbooks with Bolton stuff alone. Pundits’ articles poured out by the dozen until you were weary of them. But one made me laugh when it described our departed hero as belonging to the Kevin Keegan School of Management: “Never mind, if you score four then we’ll score three.”
I thought that was rather sad when I found myself surprisingly prepared to laugh at him when I read that little Keegan bit. Of course he didn’t do the same as John Bond in the 80s and make a real mess of things, in fact he did the oppposite, but it was suggested that in just the same way that that John Bond (who once famously disguised himself to avoid detection), would never be welcomed in Burnley again, Coyle would not exactly be greeted with open arms either.
Bit by bit we all came round to wanting to draw a line under it all and that there were better things to do and still many things to look forward to. I liked what Skipper Caldwell said on the club website, the nub of which was. “He’s gone. There is no person bigger than the club and we move on with the players we have here… Part of our history has ended but we look forward to creating our own history and a better history.” If the new man can take us further, he added, then that would be a fantastic achievement. I liked what Alexander said: “We play for Burnley.It wasn’t down to one man.” He added that there were a lot of other people behind the scenes reponsible for the success they’d had. I see a manager there one day. Davis as manager and Alexander as assistant, I might just settle for that.
And who will the new man be, we wondered? That’s the next thing to look forward to. Don’t forget our last bloke went eight games without a win; time to get rid anyway. It’s a funny old game… Megson went four unbeaten and he was sacked. When asked the question at a news conference who the new man might be: “Well, now we start the beauty parade,” answered the Chairman Barry Kilby with a droll smile on his face. He spoke well, with restraint and dignity, of shock and trauma and the unwelcome approach. At their meeting Coyle had told Kilby that he felt Bolton was his best chance of continuing to manage in the Premiership (dear God what a thing to say guaranteed to lose him friends) and that he would only have left for Bolton or Celtic. It seemed safe to assume, hearing that, that at the first opportunity he would leave Bolton in mid-stream as well, if the chance arose to join Celtic. How long does Mowbray have there, we all asked?
Anyway the signs for us were good. You will remember that Coyle left St Johnstone to join Burnley when they were just about to play in the Final of the Scottish Challenge Cup. St Johnstone won that trophy. All of us, reading the tea-leaves, therefore took this with true gallows humour that we would go on and win the Premiership, or at least the Isle of Man Steam Packet Pre-Season Tournament Trophy in the summer.
Let’s move on was the impassioned plea from those who’d had enough of the whole sorry episode, and rightly so. Enough words were written, enough ink wasted, and I’ve been as guilty as anyone of that. Let’s think about the new man and pledge our loyalty and support (though I’m not too disappointed it won’t be Darren Ferguson), we all agreed. The club comes first. The club is the club… not a manager, not the players, not any individual. The club is a history; it is bricks and mortar and tradition, an icon and a centre of the community. It is a constant whilst everything else comes and goes or shifts and moves.
Final confirmation of Clooney’s appointment came on Friday afternoon, January 8th. Whatever the compensation was, it was settled. The announcment was made. He was now Bolton’s manager. The once revered man, no matter what his achievements at Burnley, was yesterday’s man and reviled for walking out not just on a club but a town. I’m a rational man, not prone to over-reaction or histrionics, sssssh a retired headmaster, reasonably intelligent (my wife might disagree), pillar of the community and all that, but I decided that at the first sight of the odious, smarmy man on Sky Sports News in a Bolton feature I would switch it off. And tell you what; my tickets are booked for the Horwich game.
“He’s home,” said Bolton chairman Phil Gartside. What tosh. What absolute crackpot nonsense. Coyle was there just two years. Has he ever been anywhere for any real length of time? What was that famous old joke? “He’s had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus.” How long will he be at Bolton, we asked. Not bloody long we answered if history is anything to go by.
The game that we desperately wanted to go ahead versus Stoke City was postponed because of ice and snow. How we so desperately wanted to play that game and win it. Never mind.
We waited to see who the new man would be. “They’ve been knocking at the door already,” said Flood. And then when Barry mentioned beauty, I did think (forgive me for such thoughts), that it probably wouldn’t be Peter Reid or Paul Jewell and it did seem strange that Gary Neville’s name came into the frame if it was going to be a beauty parade.
Tell you what though - I wouldn’t mind if Carole Vorderman was in it.
Always look on the bright side of life… de dum, de dum, de dum, de dum, de dum…
Dave Thomas January 2010