Football comment: It's no surprise that Owen Coyle has been shown the door, given the relentless downward spiral Bolton Wanderers have been on of late.
Over the last 18 months, the club have won just 14 matches, and the sluggish start to this season, both in terms of results and performances, has clearly led chairman Phil Gartside to judge that Coyle is incapable of reversing the the Wanderers’ fortunes.
Despite the disastrous attempt to beat the drop, Bolton fans still had plenty of good-will towards Coyle at the start of this season.
The manner in which the Scot handled Fabrice Muamba’s traumatic collapse earned him a massive amount of respect which will not be quickly forgotten.
Indeed the dignified manner in which he has taken his dismissal highlights the fact this was a reluctant and disappointing parting of the ways for both the manager and the club.
While Coyle’s tactical naivety and a failure to address his squad’s frailties undoubtedly contributed, the cocktail of circumstances leading to relegation would have proven too much for most managers to bear.
Bolton’s 2011-12 campaign was dogged by a string of horrendous injuries to the squad’s key members, and the crippled squad never really recovered from a nightmare opening run against the league’s elite sides. To be relegated was, under the circumstances, forgivable, provided the green shoots of recovery soon became visible.
But three wins from the opening 10 games suggest that Coyle was simply at a loss over how to turn the club’s fortunes around, and the decision to relieve him of his duties now looks a wise one by Gartside.
Despite retaining the spine of what two seasons ago looked a safe, mid-table Premier League squad, Bolton have largely been outclassed or outfought this season.
Just one clean sheet so far indicates that last season’s porous rearguard looks just as flaky this time around and, while Kevin Davies has enjoyed a minor resurgence, just three goals from open play this season should have had alarm bells ringing.
As the season has lurched from one disappointment to another, the Reebok Stadium crowd have grown more and more vociferous in their dissent, and the timing of Coyle’s sacking will hopefully prevent a return of the toxic atmosphere that surrounded Gary Megson’s final days at the club.
With 10 days until Bolton’s next fixture, against Bristol City at home, the club’s top brass also have enough breathing space to find a successor.
Less encouraging though is the relative lack of palatable options for the Wanderers faithful.
The response to early frontrunners Mick McCarthy, Alex McLeish, Alan Curbishley and Billy Davies has been thoroughly underwhelming, and with funds at a premium, recruiting a manager already in employment seems unlikely.
The only man to receive a generally positive review among the early frontrunners is Molde boss and former Manchester United super-sub Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, whose odds plummeted last night from around 8/1 to second favourite behind McCarthy.
Whoever comes in will undoubtedly be taking on a tough task trying to please fans who have seen their side punch above their weight for the best part of a decade, with a side reportedly lacking in both confidence and funds.
But they will also be taking charge of a squad which still has plenty of quality and with performances and moral at a low, a restless fanbase could be won over with a string of positive results.
As for Coyle, the disappointing end to his reign also undoubtedly tarnished what was previously a bright reputation.
It’s easy to forget the encouraging early days of his time in the Wanderers hotseat, and while the quality on show has since deteriorated, his first 12 months and stint at Burnley were gilded with an exciting, attacking brand of football.
Having endured a torrid time of late, Coyle and Bolt could both do with a fresh start.
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