“I have tried to stay away from managers who are in work at the moment because there is a fee involved with those.”
So said Dave Whelan, according to a report from a national newspaper on Wednesday.
It seemed a strange thing to say, but maybe the comment was taken out of context.
True that having to haggle with another club about compensation could delay the appointment of a manager. True that haste is a necessity with Wigan needing to get things moving again, with so many players leaving the club. But then again, is Whelan seriously baulking at paying maybe a couple of million to get the right man?
If this is the case it rules out young, exciting prospects such as Karl Robinson and Gus Poyet, together with alternative candidates like Rene Meulensteen if he remains under contract. Given reports saying that Whelan will be naming the manager before the end of the week, the field now seems to have to narrowed down considerably.
It is probably for such reasons that the bookmakers currently rank Owen Coyle and Steve McClaren as the prime candidates. Both are experienced managers who can do a good job, given the right resources and the backing of the chairman. However, like any other experienced football manager, each has has ups and downs in his career.
Appointing an ex-Bolton manager, known for his “uber confidence”, might not go down well with some Latics supporters. Owen Coyle was released by Bolton in October 2012, after a roller-coaster ride with them. He had joined Bolton in controversial circumstances, leaving Burnley mid-way through the 2009-2010 season.
After doing a good job at St Johnstone, helping them reach the Scottish Cup final, Coyle had taken Burnley back into the Premier League. Burnley were playing some exciting football and it looked as though they would finish around mid-table. Sadly Coyle’s untimely exit led them to be relegated that same season.
When Coyle arrived at Bolton in January 2010 they were in relegation trouble, but he managed to get them into 14th place by the end of the season. The 2010-2011 season saw Bolton rise up the Premier League, seemingly challenging for a Europa League place in the early months. It was even said that his team were playing good football, despite the legacy of the previous regimes of such as Sam Allardyce and Gary Megson. However, there were those who could provide statistics to suggest that this was not the case.
Ironically it was Coyle’s success in helping his club reach the FA Cup semi final that was to lead to his eventual demise at the club. After losing 5-0 to Stoke at Wembley in April 2011 results took a steep downturn, Bolton once again finishing in 14th place, despite their early season promise. The poor form continued in the 2011-12 season, leading to them being relegated. It had been a very difficult time for the club, with Fabrice Muamba suffering a heart attack during a match in March 2012.
Despite relegation, Coyle continued as manager until October 2012. Around the time of his departure from Bolton a Guardian article, relating to Coyle’s tenure there, quoted a fan as saying “(His)signings haven’t worked out, some of his team selections are hard to understand and he often sends out sides that are set up to attack rather than stop the opposition playing, but if you had to name one principal failing it is that he doesn’t appear to know how to set up a defence or stop leaking goals.”
While Owen Coyle might be regarded as a manager who espouses attacking football, Steve McClaren’s approach has tended to be more conservative, based on solid defence. After being Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Old Trafford for two years, McClaren did a wonderful job as Middlesbrough manager from 2001-2006, winning the League Cup, reaching the UEFA Cup final and two FA Cup semi finals.
Despite his considerable success at the north east club, McClaren was never well loved there. A WSC article from September 2006 entitled “The anonymous man” provides a fascinating insight into the connection between the man, the club and its supporters.
McClaren took over as England manager in August 2006. It turned out to be a poisoned chalice. He was mercilessly attacked by the public and the media after poor England performances, including the failure to qualify for Euro 2008. He lasted 16 months in the position.
McClaren took over as manager ofl Dutch club FC Twente in June 2008. FC Twente was based in Entschede, a town of around 150,000 in population. They had never won the Dutch league since their formation in 1965. In his first season they finished second in the Eredivisie and progressed to the latter rounds of the UEFA Cup. In the following 2009-2010 season they won 16 of their 17 home games and lost only two away. They were to win the Eredivisie, finishing a point ahead of Dutch giants, Ajax Amsterdam.
McClaren then went on to brief spells at Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest before returning to Twente in January 2012. However, despite a good start things did not work out as well second time around and McClaren left in February 2013.
Both Owen Coyle and Steve McClaren are experienced and accomplished managers. Their approaches are contrasting.
Following four years of shaky defences under Roberto Martinez, Dave Whelan might look towards McClaren to provide the kind of defensive stability required to get Latics out of the Championship Division. On the other hand he might stick his neck out and go for the more effervescent Coyle.
Coyle and McClaren are as different as chalk and cheese, not just in personality but in footballing terms.
Only time will tell if Whelan makes the right decision in finding the right kind of personality and football manager to guide Wigan Athletic back into the Premier League.