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Bolton manager Owen Coyle preaches art not war in survival fight
Published : 25 Mar 2010 19:08:00
For years, this was where Sam Allardyce trained his foot soldiers in the howitzer approach to the Premier League, teaching the doctrine of digging in for victory. Now, though, the dogma has changed. There is to be more art, less war. Such is the gospel according to Owen Coyle, the latest standard bearer for the idealists who preach purity in a world of pragmatism. Received wisdom, of course, dictates that such a philosophy is doomed. Related ArticlesPremier League relegationWayne Rooney set to be rested for visit to BoltonEverton 2 Bolton 0Neville's double centuryEverton v Bolton Wanderers: match previewSport on televisionOnly with the Allardyce approach, so the theory goes, can the vast financial chasm that exists between the Premier League's haves and have-nots been bridged. That is how Stoke have done it, and that is how Allardyce's Bolton, their natural precursors, did it. It is exactly how Tony Mowbray and West Bromwich Albion, delightful on the way to their inevitable doom, did not do it, and they paid a heavy price. By sticking to their principles, by indulging their inner aesthetes, the likes of Coyle and Wigan manager Roberto Martínez are presumed to be dicing with death. "It's false to suggest that," counters the third of Allardyce's successors. "People look at that West Brom side who played football, but they did not get relegated because they played good football, but because they conceded soft goals. "It comes down to individual or collective mistakes. At Burnley, we played the same way away from home as we did at home, where our record was very good. We didn't lose away because of our style, but because we made errors. "The strikers in the Premier League are ruthless. If you make a mistake, people like Jermain Defoe, Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba will punish you. "But there is no reason you cannot play good football and remain in the division. The way to win games is to play entertaining football. "If you do it right as a unit, you will win games. You lose because of mistakes or because you come up against a better side." Coyle clearly has the courage of his convictions. So too, though, did Mowbray, a devotee of Arenal manager Arsène Wenger's belief that good football is winning football, rather than the converse, as advocated by many of their peers. Coyle's philosophy, though, is not hewn from what he learned on the pitch when playing for Airdrie, Dundee and Dunfermline as a forward, but from what he remembers watching from the stands. "I wanted to play in good teams," he says after a brisk training session with local children. "I feel very fortunate to have had my career and, if I hadn't, I would still be paying my fiver to play five-a-side with you because we love the game. "When you're out there training running about with the kids, you feel as you did as a young boy, you love the smell of the grass. "But as a fan I love watching Barcelona, and Arsenal, teams that pass at pace. Arsenal are the perfect role models for any team that wants to play passing football. They're a joy to watch. "As a fan that's what I want to see and so as a manager that's what I try to play. You can't do it all the time, but you have to have it in your locker, as well as having other facets to your play." Coyle accepts that, at times, the players bequeathed to him essentially by Allardyce Kevin Davies et al mean he always has the option of setting aside artistry for a touch of the artisan. "We pigeonhole everyone that they play in a certain way," he says. "We give them a name, a long-ball team, a power team, a skilful team, a counter-attacking team. "People don't see the other dimensions. If we have to go long we can. We know the strengths we have, but we have good footballers here." Owen Coyle was speaking at an official coaching and Q&A session for Barclays, title sponsor of the Barclays Premier League. Barclays will be donating £1000 per goal and £500 for every shot on target in the Barclays Premier League this Sport Relief weekend.