Owen Coyle's first game in charge as the new manager of Bolton Wanderers could come as early as tomorrow in the Premier League fixture at Arsenal. The 43-year-old Scot was granted permission by Burnley over the weekend to talk to Bolton's chairman, Phil Gartside, and Gartside immediately travelled to Glasgow – where Coyle was visiting family – for negotiations.
Burnley subsequently issued a statement yesterday admitting those talks had already taken place but without giving details. Coyle went back to Burnley last night to see the Burnley chairman, Barry Kilby, to discuss the terms of his departure.
It is understood Burnley will seek up to £3m from Bolton in compensation for their manager. A clause stipulating that figure was reportedly inserted into Coyle's Burnley contract when he signed a 12-month extension to his pre-existing three-year deal in the summer. Inevitable wrangling is expected over the size and timing of the pay-off but is not expected to delay Coyle's move across Lancashire.
A second Burnley statement, issued last night, said Burnley officials have held "detailed talks" with Coyle yesterday evening. "As a result of these talks over Coyle's future with his current employers, both parties have decided to take a further 24 hours to digest the information shared before making any further announcement. There will be no further comment during this time from Burnley FC or Owen Coyle."
Coyle is understood to have been been attracted to the Bolton vacancy as soon as it arose because of Gary Megson's sacking last week. Coyle is thought to earn around £750,000 per year at Burnley and could potentially treble that at the Reebok Stadium if he meets bonus targets such as keeping the club in the Premier League.
Bolton are 18th in the table on 18 points from 18 games. Burnley are 14th with 20 points from 20 games.
Money is not Coyle's sole motivation – far from it – but it is a factor in his decision-making, as is the prospect of a decent run as a Premier League manager. When Celtic offered him the chance to succeed Gordon Strachan in the summer, he turned them down to stay at Burnley because the rewards and the kudos at a Premier League club – any Premier League club – were perceived as higher.
Gartside has considered Coyle as a manager before: he shortlisted Coyle before Megson got the job, and then recommended him to Burnley, where he moved from St Johnstone, then in the Scottish First Division, in November 2007.
Coyle spent the majority of his 22-year playing career in Scotland with the only English club being Bolton, between 1993 and 1995. His management career started in earnest at Perth-based Saints in 2005, and included reaching the semi-finals of both cups in 2006, and pushing millionaire-backed Gretna in the race for promotion to the SPL in 2007.
Prior to Saints, Coyle had done some coaching at Airdrie, Dundee United and Falkirk, at the latter alongside John "Yogi" Hughes, who is now at Hibernian and could prove an ideal replacement as Burnley's next up-and-coming Scottish manager. In Coyle's first full season at Burnley, 2008-09, he led them back to England's top division for the first time in 33 years.
He has earned a reputation as a man who can work well on a tight budget, but has simultaneously and repeatedly made references to nearby clubs – notably Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan – having three times the resources he has had at Burnley.
Before Burnley hosted Bolton on Boxing Day, Coyle said: "Bolton are a fantastic club with great supporters... I had a lot of fantastic times at Bolton and loved every minute. The team I played in was an exciting one which gained promotion to the Premier League and had tremendous cup runs. They were great times, really happy days, but my focus is on Burnley."
That could soon be "was on Burnley".