Burnley fans love the return of a former hero – so Kevin Robinson looks over the ex-Clarets who could return to Turf Moor.
After losing his job at Bolton last week, Coyle’s name was always going to get thrown in the ring. He burned all bridges at Turf Moor when moving to the Reebok in the circumstances he did back in 2010 – but nobody can deny the success he enjoyed previously.
When the going gets tough, Coyle has struggled to get his team going. The problem for me is the foundations from which that success was built on. Our promotion and his early good form at Bolton came very much on the back of good feeling around his respective clubs. He certainly wouldn’t get that immediately at Turf Moor given fans’ animosity towards him – and that’s before you get to certain members of the board – and at any sign of trouble memories of that departure will be very quick to rear their ugly head.
A much more likely return is Grezza. He has already served as player/first-team coach for a while at Turf Moor and was this summer appointed head of youth development at Preston North End.
We have really lacked a character like him in the dressing room since he left and he might seem an ideal appointment given our problems at the back this season. He’s got passion, masses of experience as a player, strong opinions on how the game should be played, great focus on fitness, demands respect and is a natural born leader.
He was very popular as a player here and I’d expect he would be cautiously welcomed as manager but would almost certainly be the cheap option. A rookie with no history to suggest he can cut it as a manager – he’s not even got much coaching experience - fans could turn on his back very quickly if he didn’t start well.
Micky Mellon played almost 500 games for ten different teams – including 85 for Burnley as we won promotion in 2000 – but it’s on the touchline that he’s really made his name at Fleetwood. He actually began his coaching career at Gawthorpe, coaching a couple of youth teams at Burnley before taking on a struggling the Blue Square North Cod Army in 2008. Four years later he’s taken them to within a point of the automatic promotion spots in League Two – an incredible record.
He’s enjoyed massive success - overseeing play-off campaigns in his first two full seasons as a boss, winning promotion at the first attempt, then winning the Blue Square Premier comfortably last season and now threatening a second consecutive promotion to League One.
He’d be an exciting appointment – but his experience is predominantly outside the Football League especially for a manager who has been bankrolled through his whole career.
Steve Davis (mk I)
Crewe gaffer Steve Davis ticks all the boxes for what the Burnley board have looked for in their last few managers; he’s a young manager enjoying success in the lower leagues, plays attractive and attacking football with a young squad and can work on a budget.
Like Mellon he enjoyed huge non-league success as a manager - winning two promotions in three years with Nantwich Town and narrowly missing out on a third promotion to the Blue Square Premier. He moved to Crewe as assistant manager and got the top job a year ago. He got his players doing yoga – and it seemed to do the trick as the Railwaymen immediately shot up League Two and won promotion through the play-offs, amidst a twenty-game unbeaten run.
Despite going up his side still conceded a lot of goals and he’s not managed at anything like a credible level for less than 12 months - is that enough or is this just the honeymoon period?
Steve Davis (mk II)
The other Steve Davis has been a favourite for the job twice in recent years and has already managed us to victory. He took the reigns for the 1-0 win at Leicester when Steve Cotterill was sacked but Owen Coyle was preferred for the job full-time. He was again appointed caretaker when Coyle left in 2010 – but that lasted but a day as he was quick to join him at Horwich when told he likely wouldn’t be considered for the top job.
Following ‘Judas’ down the road muddied his status with Burnley fans, many of whom regard him in a similar light to Coyle. Despite looking for a job after being sacked the other week I’ll file this under long shot. Maybe we’ll call on him if everybody else turns us down, but there’s precious reason to consider him after he wasn’t considered good enough in 2010 when we were screaming out for continuity.
Paul Cook is another former Claret managing in the Football League after taking the Accrington Stanley job but hasn’t done anything to suggest he might get the call from a Championship club – even one that made Brian Laws a Premier League manager. He started his coaching career at Southport where he was an unmitigated disaster and sacked just months into the job. He moved to Ireland where he won silverware with Sligo Rovers before returning to England with Stanley in February.
He lost his first four games at Stanley and it took eight to get a first win and although things improved by the end of the season his team continued to concede loads of goals, conceding four or five on three occasions. This season has been alright, Stanley are tenth in League Two which isn’t bad. But he won’t be managing Burnley any time soon.
Manchester United reserve team coach has been mentioned a few times but it’s very unlikely he’d leave Carrington for Gawthorpe. There have been a couple of murmurings that he’d like to step forward from coach to manager but little more and he reportedly turned down Hull last year – a Club he has much stronger affiliation to than Burnley and even managed back in 1998.
He pulled off a miracle recovery in ’98 and is certainly experienced, having coached at Tranmere, Stockport, Leeds and Royal Antwerp before United. Burnley are keen to speak to him but unless he’s had a change of heart in the last 12 months his move into management at Burnley is a non-starter.
Another United coach who has much stronger links to the Club is Mike Phelan. Born in Nelson, he came through Burnley’s youth ranks to play over 150 games for the Clarets before going on to play for Norwich, Manchester United and England.
He’s risen through the ranks at Old Trafford, heading up the Centre of Excellence before being promoted to first team coach and then assistant manager. He was heavily linked with the job at Turf Moor when Coyle deserted us in 2010 and has been mentioned for a few jobs in recent years.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistants have usually gone on to try and make it themselves and if Phelan has similar ambitions, he could certainly be an option given his strong attachment to the club. He’s got it good at the moment though, a safe job under Sir Alex presumably making more money than he would here.
Kevin Ball’s name is synonymous round these parts with one particular moment in his Burnley career - and with our midfield desperately underperforming this season fans want him to come back and inject some passion and bite into the team.
He’s been coaching at another of his former clubs Sunderland in the last few years and was appointed caretaker manager for ten games in 2006 after the sacking of Mick McCarthy. He only managed five points and a solitary win from ten games, including a goalless draw at Old Trafford. He wanted the job full time but Niall Quinn wanted a ‘world class manager’ so got Roy Keane instead. His spell as caretaker can’t be taken into account as he had a terrible team (they finished the season with 15 points), though not many managers have come away with anything from Old Trafford.
If we’re appointing on passion Ball would be right up there, but it’s not always the case that a manager’s team reflect his playing days (Eddie Howe was a defender!). Though relatively experienced on the training ground, he’s a rookie as a manager.
Former player and manager Adrian Heath is currently working in America with Stoke City’s baby club Orlando City who boast Anthony ‘son of Tony’ Pulis, John ‘brother of Wayne’ Rooney and James ‘used to be a Claret’ O’Connor among the professional roster.
He left Burnley to become assistant manager of Sheffield United – but returned just weeks later when appointed Burnley boss. “I wouldn’t have left Sheffield United for any club other than Burnley,” he said (that’s starting to sound familiar round here). He left to become assistant again, this time at Everton, but was soon sacked, had a short spell as Sheffield United manager before being replaced by Neil Warnock. He stepped up as Blades caretaker a couple of times before moving to America with Austin Aztec and oversaw the club moving 1,000 miles to Orlando.
That’s the furthest he’ll be moving any time soon though, he wouldn’t even bother applying for the job here.
Another former Burnley trainee currently in a coaching job is Chris Brass. He played over 130 games after coming through the youth system in the 1990s and was made captain under Stan Ternent.
He has a pretty disastrous period as player/manager of York with a miserable 21% win ratio as they were relegated out of the Football League and then struggled again in the Conference. But he was only 27 at the time but has had a good few years experience coaching and is now assistant manager to Alan Knill at Scunthorpe and has earned a degree in physiotherapy.
Could he be ready to throw his hat in the ring for a go at management again? If he was, it wouldn’t be at Burnley. But maybe we could get him in to stop our defence making so many mista… oh.
Does Derek Adams count? He played two games here after being signed as ‘one of the future’ by Jimmy Mullen in 1995.
He’s had success as a manager in Scotland, winning Division Two and reaching the Scottish Cup final – beating Hibernian and Celtic on the way - with Ross County, and then taking them into the SPL last season after returning from a stint a Hibs assistant manager.
We’ve taken managers from relatively small Scottish clubs before and Coyle did a decent enough job – and with Scottish managers all the rage south of the border right now, why not again?
He had a spell managing Burnley FC Ladies before moving on to assistant manager at Colne in the North West Counties leagues this summer. He has ambitions of replicating the success of his former team-mates post-playing careers.
“I’m up for it big time,” he said when appointed at Colne. “The sky is the limit and you only have to look at the likes of Micky Mellon, Paul Cook, the two Steve Davis’, there’s a lot of players my age that have gone into professional football management.”
Laws had the best goals-per-game ratio as Burnley boss in recent years and… Oh sorry – I just can’t do it.
Do any of our former managers have what it takes? Who would you take? Comment below.