Owen Coyle emerges as the number one choice to replace Roberto Martinez at Wigan

The former Bolton manager has been out of work since last year

The new front-runner for the vacant manager's job at Wigan Athletic is the former Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle, who has been out of work since October.

Coyle, 46, heads a shortlist that includes former England manager Steve McClaren, Rene Meulensteen – Sir Alex Ferguson's former assistant at Manchester United – and the MK Dons manager Karl Robinson, all of whom have been considered as potential candidates by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan.

The first choice was Gus Poyet, currently suspended from his duties at Brighton, but it is unlikely that he will take the job – regardless of his situation with his current club. While Poyet was at the top of Whelan's list, the most likely appointment is now Coyle, who would not require a compensation payment. He was previously on the shortlist to become the new Wolverhampton Wanderers manager before Kenny Jackett was appointed.

Coyle was the rising star of British management when he moved to Bolton from Burnley in January 2010 and saved the club from relegation that season. While at Burnley, whom he got promoted to the Premier League in 2009, he was approached to be the Celtic manager but turned the job down. In his best times at Bolton he was touted as a potential replacement for Arsène Wenger at Arsenal. In his first full season with Bolton, they finished 14th, seven points clear of the relegation places but were relegated at the end of the 2011-12 season.

There are a number of sought-after jobs likely to become available in the Premier League and Championship, starting with Brighton once the club finally reach a settlement with Poyet. Their suspension of their manager pending a club "investigation" has become all the more confusing given that Poyet's assistant Mauricio Taricco has had his suspension lifted.

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