“It would be very easy to look for a quick fix and sign ready-made players at 31 or 32 who you are guaranteed to get a good two years or 18 months from, but then you are back to square one”, says Owen Coyle speaking to the Bolton News.
“I have never had that way of doing things. My belief has always been in investing transfer fees on younger players. I rarely, if ever, spend money on a player over 24 years of age.
It has been something of a whirlwind for Bolton Wanderers under the control of Owen Coyle; beating the drop in his first season, drawing the plaudits but fading away in the second, and a wretched dog-fight to avoid relegation in the third.
The results and the style of play are always thrust in to the spotlight, but it’s clear that Owen has been keeping himself busy behind the scenes and has spent considerable time implementing his long term plan to revamp the first team squad and club as a whole.
Coyle makes no secret of his strategy. He intends to build a nucleus of young, skilful and entertaining footballers, and to give them the remit to work hard and entertain the fans. The Scotsman’s post match interviews are often littered with statements about his desire to give game time and belief to players that he would happily pay to see as a fan.
It is this policy that has seen the likes of Sturridge, Weiss, Rodrigo, Wilshere, Miyaichi and Kakuta all brought in on loan, admittedly with varying degrees of success, but each under the same principle to bring excitement to the fans and an attacking threat on the pitch.
It should be noted that as well as this vision and its implementation by Coyle and his staff, it is also the patience and support offered to him by Chairman Phil Gartside and owner Eddie Davies that underpins this development. We have seen time after time that clubs of our size often resort to quick-fix landmark signings or new managers as soon as they start to feel the pressure of relegation. Coyle has had the benefit of unequivocal backing from his board and owner, and as a fan I have never sensed that the manager’s job was under any serious threat even as we sat rock bottom – A rare show of solidarity and an appreciation of the benefits of longevity that is not often seen at this level.
If we remove those players with contracts up in the summer and those returning to their parent clubs after loan periods, the first team squad as it stands would have an average age of 24 (ages at the time of writing) and probably look something like this;
Bogdan – 24,
Alonso – 21, Ream – 24, Wheater – 25. Riley – 20, Mears – 29
Mark Davies – 24, Holden – 26, Pratley – 26, Muamba – 24, NRC – 27, Eagles – 26
Lee – 23, Wylde – 21, Sordell – 21, Ngog – 23
(Obviously some out of contract players will be retained – Ricketts, Klasnic and Petrov all playing well in the run in, and this will distort the average.)
Naturally the outcome of the survival race will have a huge impact on the make-up of the squad next season, but this cycle of contracts does give Coyle a real opportunity to realise his vision and put it in to practice.
As a Bolton fan I feel genuinely excited at the prospect that this poses for next season should we stay in the Premier League. Arguably it would mark the full transition from the Allardyce era and everything that encompassed, into a quicker, slicker and leaner beast.
Let’s really hope and push for survival this time round, because it’s looking like it could be a really interesting one next year! COYWM!