Their teams cannot escape a slump in form, in mood, in hope, that has left them at the foot of the Barclay's Premier League, and Blackburn Rovers' meeting with Bolton Wanderers at Ewood Park tonight already seems like a last resort. The two managers have become diminished by their circumstances, but only one of them stands on the brink:
Kean, surrounded by the anger and disdain of his own fans, is facing what might be a final ordeal. He took his son to the pre-match press conference yesterday, where the manager faced questions about his future, about a reported ultimatum from the owners, Venky's, about the derision that spills from the stands. The Blackburn fans withheld their scorn for 52 minutes on Saturday, but then West Bromwich Albion scored and a pact to refrain from protesting broke to release fury.
Kean can look like an abandoned figure on the touchline when his own supporters rise up against him, but with his pursed lips and grim expression, he offers an instinctive form of defiance. There is a feeling around Ewood Park that a decision has already been made regarding Kean's dismissal, though, regardless of the outcome of this Lancashire derby, with the only doubt being that the Venky's hierarchy have a tendency to abruptly change their minds.
Coyle can be more certain of his fate, since the Bolton chairman, Phil Gartside, has publicly backed him, and the owner, Eddie Davies, has privately assured the manager that his position is safe. Coyle also retains the support of the majority of Bolton fans, who still consider him a figure of optimism and shrewdness. He spent a lot of time re-engaging with the supporters after the Gary Megson era, when a rift developed between fans and the club, and that effort is of continuing worth to Coyle now.
Yet he and Kean stand on the cusp of a significant encounter, when one team will be left at the bottom of the Premier League at Christmas, and with the knowledge that only once in 19 years has the team in that position managed to escape relegation. "Facts and stats are whatever you want to make of them," Coyle said, but of the two teams his seems most troubled.
Bolton have lost five matches in a row, and 12 overall this season, while no side in the top flight has conceded more goals. The departures of his regular goalscorers from last season, Johan Elmander and Daniel Sturridge, were a setback, then he lost Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong to injury, but the melancholy of his team seems beyond the reach of the manager's enthusiastic nature.
Following the 2-0 defeat to Fulham last Saturday, Coyle asked his players if they had given everything of themselves, as if his view was that they hadn't. This harder edge, and the obvious pain Coyle is feeling – "inside, it's killing me," he said – has further endeared him to the supporters, who believe his predecessor, Megson, was detached and didn't share their intensity of feeling.
Coyle has started to plan for the transfer window and is likely to end Gael Kakuta's loan spell from Chelsea to allow him to borrow another player. Eleven first-team players are out of contract in the summer, which may have contributed to the team's fragile spirit since all negotiations have been put on hold until the club's fate is decided, and some may be sold in January to allow Coyle to refresh his team.
The contrast between the two managers will be evident in the aftermath of tonight's game, since Blackburn will hold a board meeting tomorrow, during which Kean's position is expected to be discussed. The club are being run from a distance, but essentially left to their own devices since Venky's removed the chairman and the managing director when they took over last year. Many close observers believe the Indian company bought the club with little knowledge of how football works and have been making naive and ill-conceived decisions ever since.
Kean has long been considered a talented coach and someone likely to make a success of management, but he has received little practical support from the owners. There is no recognised decision-making structure above him, and a resentment lingered at the way he replaced the ousted Sam Allardyce. Kean has suffered, too, from the broken promises made by Venky's, who talked brazenly but gullibly of trying to sign Ronaldinho and of playing in the Champions League.
The disillusionment of the fans is not restricted to Kean, but there was a view last weekend that the negativity has finally begun to affect the players. They remain committed, to their manager and his cause, but there is never any sense of respite for Kean, even in victory. The Lancashire Telegraph ran a front-page editorial yesterday calling for Kean's dismissal and the momentum behind that view now seems inexorable.
"I would never back away," Kean said. "You have to face up to the responsibility. It doesn't keep me awake at night, but it is a difficult situation. In a strange way, we can use it as a deterrent not to go on a run like this and turn things around."
Yet after tonight, Blackburn's next two games are away to Liverpool and Manchester United. Even if he stays in his job, Kean will be a manager on the edge of distress.