Managers can pay a price for loyalty

Talking point
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The Independent Online

"Loyalty", one veteran journalist is fond of saying, "is what they screw you with." Actually, he uses stronger language, of the type some Burnley fans are associating with Owen Coyle.

While Coyle's decision to skip across Lancashire to Bolton sticks in the craw with many, it is understandable. If he had any doubts Coyle only had to look at another neighbouring club, Preston. At the start of the season Alan Irvine, having steered North End into the play-offs, rejected entreaties from wealthier West Brom. His loyalty was rewarded last month with the sack. Irvine has been able to pick up an equally good job quickly, joining Sheffield Wednesday this week, but Coyle knows there are no guarantees that he would do the same if, in 12 months, he is fired with Burnley back in the Championship and struggling.

That is what happened to our columnist Neil Warnock. He turned down Chelsea after taking Notts County into the top flight in 1991. He was sacked 18 months later and took 13 years to return to the elite division.

The smart ones move when they can. One manager recalls bumping into Sir Alex Ferguson after a successful promotion campaign and asking for advice. "Go" was the message, "while your stock is high." The manager did not want to leave the squad he had built, and believed it could progress further. He was wrong. His reputation has never recovered from the subsequent relegation.

Maybe Sir Alex gave his son the same advice when Darren sought to leave Peterborough for Reading this summer after successive promotions. Peterborough blocked the move, but still fired Ferguson in November as the team struggled.

Fans don't change teams, but for most managers clubs are employers, not passions. Like any worker, when a better job opportunity arises, they take it. Given the profession's job insecurity, who can blame them?

g.moore@independent.co.uk

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