OWEN Coyle should not be written off as a manager simply because his hugely promising career was derailed at Bolton and Wigan, according to his former player, Shaun Maloney.
The odds shortened dramatically on Coyle landing the Celtic job yesterday after a flurry of bets were placed on him in Ireland. He turned down the chance to manage Celtic in 2009, when he was at Burnley, although he subsequently moved to Bolton. That turned sour and a spell at Wigan this season, where he managed Maloney, was short-lived. The 47-year-old, who has never made a secret of being a Celtic fan, is now out of work and would leap at the chance to succeed Neil Lennon, although some Parkhead supporters are critical because of his previous rejection and his record at his two most recent clubs.
However, former Celtic forward Maloney defended Coyle and urged supporters not to regard him as damaged goods. Coyle was appointed by Wigan last June but because of poor results in the Championship he lasted only until December.
"It's a difficult one with him losing his job at our place and at Bolton," said Maloney, who is still at Wigan. "I can see why there are questions, but it's harsh to try to judge someone before they even get the job. But that's football.
"It's the same with players. It's a results business and that's fine. You know when you go into management that if you win games you will be fine. He could get his next job and do very well. It's a bit harsh to judge him before he has got the job.
"I wouldn't describe him as damaged goods at all. I think damaged goods is a harsh phrase to use. I couldn't tell you the ins and outs, but I think he was close to getting the Celtic job when he was at Burnley and that's probably the reason why he's mentioned again.
"Could he handle the Celtic job? It's hard for me to answer that. I worked with a really good man, someone I thought would be a really good manager and that was Tony Mowbray. That didn't work out. I didn't play too many times for him but when I did play I liked him as a person and his style of football. So I'm not sure if I could say who would be good for it [the Celtic job] or not."
Maloney, now 31, had two spells at Celtic and has an insight into the manager's position there, having played under Martin O'Neill, Gordon Strachan, Mowbray and Neil Lennon.
"It's a really intense job. It's a difficult time for Scottish football with the challenges Celtic have, winning the league, and then the necessity of getting to the Champions League. I'd imagine it's still a pretty demanding place to work.
"It's totally different at Wigan. That's a town of 50,000 people and the players and management don't really have too many press requirements. The Celtic job is at the other end of that scale. You are dealing with hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of fans worldwide and there's a new level of expectancy of winning trophies. Wigan are now faced with the expectancy of being in the top six of the Championship, but we don't feel the intensity of the town the way it is in Glasgow. That's the polar opposite.
"Owen definitely tried to cultivate a really good relationship with the players when he came to us; that was his biggest idea. That's the way he tried to manage the club. His assistant, Sandy Stewart, did the bulk of the coaching, that's the way the two worked. In fairness, it was difficult for him when he came in, because we had a very different style of manager and style of football before him [under Roberto Martinez] that the club had been used to for four years. We had just been relegated and lost some of our best players. I think he had to sign a lot as well, so it was a tough job for him."
Maloney's own season has been ravaged by a hip injury which required surgery. He played only six times under Coyle and 13 times in total in Wigan's campaign, although a return to the side at the end of the season allowed him to join the Scotland squad in London for tomorrow night's friendly against Nigeria. "It's been quite a while for me, so I'm pretty enthusiastic about being back in to the squad. I've not really got too much fatigue going on at the minute, because of the number of games I've missed, so I'm just happy to be here."