Burnley expressed surprise at Owen Coyle's "sideways" move to Bolton yesterday, as chief executive Brendan Flood affirmed the club's aspiration to hire another young manager. Blackpool's Ian Holloway looks a prospect as well as Swansea City's Paulo Sousa, though slim hopes at Turf Moor of Leeds United's Simon Grayson aspiring to the job have been quashed already.
Flood's friendship with the Bolton chairman Phil Gartside has been severely strained by Coyle's move across Lancashire, with Burnley particularly aggrieved by suggestions from the Reebok that only £1m compensation is due for Coyle's release, rather than the £3m enshrined in his contract. A meeting between the two clubs at the Reebok on 26 January looks set to be a fiery affair with Flood declaring that Bolton's apparent presumption that they are the bigger club is something Burnley fans should be worked up about. "The neighbouring town issue is something our fans should get fired up for," Flood said. "Bolton are perceiving themselves to be better than us and maybe Owen has gone with that view. I think we've got to say we can be equal and be better again. Bolton are an established Premier League club. We can be like that."
His chairman, Barry Kilby, said of the relationship between the two clubs that: "I don't think we are best of pals at the moment" following a move which came "at a bad time and was an unwelcome approach", and he also expressed surprise at Coyle's career calculations. "I fully expected when Owen did move from here – he was an ambitious manager and we accepted that might happen – that he would go upwards from Burnley," Kilby said. "Not sideways to a club we are fighting in a relegation scrap."
Burnley have been left to seek a manager who can keep them up, though the club are looking beyond this season and want an individual who can restore them to the top flight in the event of relegation. A younger manager in the Coyle mould is a far more likely successor to the outgoing 43-year-old than some of the more experienced candidates available such as Peter Reid, or Gary Megson, whose departure from Bolton opened the door for Coyle.
Flood expects to recruit within two weeks. "There are always young, hungry, winning managers who are out there who want a challenge, who want to do something and make their name," he said. "I think we would like to have the same recipe [as Coyle]. We have just got to meet them and make sure they have got the chemistry, the right feeling for Burnley. The January window puts extra pressure on everybody. We will be looking for somebody who can make a difference quickly."
Despite Kilby's expectations of a "beauty parade," the prospect of guiding the Clarets to safety was evidently not attractive enough to prevent Darren Ferguson from holding off on accepting the relative safety of the manager's chair at Preston North End, where he was unveiled yesterday afternoon. The Hibernian manager John Hughes, recommended by the outgoing Coyle, is considered another contender but Swansea's 39-year-old Sousa looks a more likely prospect. The former Portuguese international has guided Swansea to sixth in the Championship since Roberto Martinez's departure. Holloway's Blackpool are only three points behind them and his star is in the ascendancy again after relegation with Leicester in 2008.
Grayson will not move from Leeds, though. "My commitment to Leeds United has never been in question," he said yesterday. "I left Blackpool a year ago to join the club I supported. Leeds is a fantastic club and I am not interested in going anywhere else."
In the meantime, Burnley are willing to put the reserve team coach Steve Davis in charge for Saturday's home match against Stoke City – which is in some doubt because of the adverse weather – and the visit to Old Trafford a week later. Flood, the man who compared Coyle to Bill Shankly after hiring him, concluded: "We are a winning club and let's not forget that. We have had a fantastic run and it's not just about one man. No players have left this club."Reuse content