The outpouring of good luck messages directed at our departing manager across the various Social Media outlets demonstrated the that among Wanderers fans Owen Coyle is highly regarded as a person, although the football that his Bolton team were producing was not up to the standards expected.
The gist of such messages are mostly not that of anger but that of fans glad the reign was over. I very much agree with the sentiments expressed, the man is known as one of the nicest men in football who’s positivity and love for Bolton wanderers was there for all to see; and I do wish him well and hope that whatever he moves onto next, he has better success than the project of Bolton Wanderers brought.
With that said, it’s the inclusion of the term ‘Legend’ that leaves me a little confused when used in reference to the departing Scot.
Now as a fan who started following the Wanderers in the very late 80′s / early 90′s; I am well aware of Coyle as both a player and a manager. I, like most fans, can recall his greatest moment in a white shirt like it was yesterday. I am of course referring to his goal at Wembley in 1995 to bring the Whites back into the match, which saw Fabian de Freitas go on to score and take the tie to extra time – which we of course we went on to win and gained our place in the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.
Does this qualify Coyle for legendary status? I’m not sure that that alone does. He turned out 54 times for Bolton over a two year period scoring 12 goals including that goal in the Play-Off Final. He was part of that era, which left fans with many great memories and was an important part of Bruce Rioch’s squad. Again, these facts don’t qualify him as a legend, more of a fondly remembered ex-player.
When Coyle returned to the club in 2008, all those nostalgic feelings of 90′s came flooding back – I imagine fans who saw Big Sam as a player felt the same when he returned in the same capacity. The start of his reign started well and was a much needed refreshing change from the dark and dreary times under the previous regime, culminating in a day out again to Wembley for a date with Stoke in the FA Cup Semi Final.
The FA Cup Semi Final was, in my opinion, the start of our decline as a club, eventually seeing us drop out the top flight for the first time in 11 years. If Coyle’s team would have defeated Stoke and set a date in the final for the first time since 1958, then a legend status would be more fitting.
So, what makes someone a legend?
It takes something just a little more than what the average footballer brings to the club. Of course the name that defines legend, and rightly so, is that of one Sir Nat Lofthouse. A player who like Coyle played and managed the Trotters. Only in Sir Nat Lofthouse’s case, he lifted the FA cup in 1958, represented England, was a local lad who had done good and most importantly he only ever pulled on the shirt of Bolton Wanderers during his playing career. Sir Nat Lofthouse is very much deserving of his Legendary status, which is due to be immortalised in bronze – in the form of a statue at the Reebok, due to be unveiled on what would have been his 88th birthday next year.
Another player deserving of the legend tag is Eddie Hopkinson, who holds the record number appearances for the Whites – a figure that was due to be broken by Jussi Jaaskelainen, before his departure to Big Sam’s West Ham this summer. Eddie’s record looks to be one that will remain in Wanderers record books for years to come, meaning fans in the future will still be familiar with his name long after those who actually remember him playing.
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