Coyle finds consolation in cruel exit

Burnley manager backs his passing side to bounce back from Carling Cup near miss
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The Independent Football

Burnley's dream of tilting at a major trophy for the first time since Harry Potts guided Jimmy Adamson's team of footballing talent to the 1962 FA Cup final may have been destroyed in the cruellest circumstances on Wednesday evening but the end of a thrilling run to the last four of the Carling Cup may mark the beginning of a new wave of success at Turf Moor.

Burnley's elimination of Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal in the earlier rounds of the competition gave them a remarkable hat-trick of London Premier League scalps to which they seemed sure to add the holders, Tottenham, until two goals in the last three minutes of extra time tore their Wembley ticket away from them.

That they should go so close was all the more noteworthy in the knowledge that those victories – and the heart-breaking near miss – were achieved not through any crude reliance on the physical attributes notoriously favoured by some of their Lancashire neighbours but as a consequence of an expansive, easy-on-the-eye passing game favoured by their young Scottish manager, Owen Coyle.

The 42-year-old from Paisley, who spent two seasons as a player with Bolton in the mid-Nineties, returned to England as Burnley's manager 14 months ago after cutting his teeth with St Johnstone in the Scottish League. Although he was not the board's first choice, he came with a glowing reference from the then Scotland manager, Alex McLeish, and Burnley have not regretted his appointment.

Having finished 13th in the Championship last season, Coyle's team have established themselves as promotion contenders during the current campaign, occupying a top-four place for much of the late autumn and still sitting just outside the play-off positions despite a recent stutter in league form.

But it is the manner in which his team have taken on and defeated Premier League teams that has delighted Burnley fans and brought satisfaction to their manager, as well as allowing the talents of Robbie Blake, Chris Eagles, Martin Paterson, Kevin McDonald and others to shine through. Their downing of Arsenal's precociously talented youngsters brought them wider attention, particularly since they defeated Arsène Wenger's team without a hint of intimidation.

"A lot of times you don't beat a Premier League team by playing football but we have done in this competition and we nearly did on Wednesday night," Coyle said. "We did not get what we deserved in the end but we're a Championship club and to recover a 4-1 deficit and look the team in charge made it a wonderful night for the football club, regardless of the result.

"The players showed that when they get to the levels we've set, we're a good side. So there's a lot to take from the game," he added.

Promotion to the Premier League may be Coyle's principal target but another chance to impress a wider audience presents itself as quickly as tomorrow, when Burnley travel to West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup.

It is a meeting of like minds in that Tony Mowbray, the Albion manager, is as much a proponent of artistic football as Coyle. The two became friends as managerial adversaries in Scotland when Mowbray was in charge at Hilbernian and Mowbray counts himself among Coyle's admirers.

"I have always been impressed with him," Mowbray said. "He was a wholehearted, 100 per cent footballer who never stopped running and he manages with the same intensity and adrenalin. He likes his teams to play football and I think they do play.

Coyle is determined that there will be no sense of deflation in Burnley's performance at The Hawthorns. "I really couldn't be any more proud of the lads nor have asked any more of them. The only regret is we've not reached the final," he said.

"But it's important that we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and go again. We'd love to have an FA Cup run, too."

Capital Punishment: Burnley's cup wins

23 Sept, Fulham (h) 1-0

Jay Rodriguez's 88th-minute strike settled third-round tie.

12 Nov, Chelsea (a) 1-1, won

5-4 on pens Ade Akinbiyi hit a second-half equaliser before goalkeeper Brian Jensen became the penalty saving hero.

2 Dec, Arsenal (h) 2-0

Young Scottish midfielder Kevin McDonald underlined his potential with both goals.

21 Jan, Tottenham (h) 3-2

Overturned first-leg deficit and two minutes from Wembley final before late Spurs fightback.