Owen Coyle Jr on his dad, coaching and amputee football

By Thomas DuncanBBC Scotland
Owen Coyle
Owen Coyle Jr, centre, with his dad, right, while coaching in India

Owen Coyle's most vivid memory of watching his dad is of the final day of the 2006-07 season as a 10-year-old. Not a joyful recollection, but one of heartbreak.

St Johnstone, managed by Owen Coyle Sr, were heading for the Scottish Premier League before James Grady's last-minute winner for Gretna in Dingwall cruelly ended their promotion hopes.

"That was a long time ago but that's the real prominent memory just because of the heartache that followed as a young fan," said Coyle Jr.

"Supporting my dad, it was the first memory of the hurt of football which also comes with the joy of winning. But I also remember when he was at Falkirk, winning different cups and leagues and getting paraded around the pitch at the end of the game. Things like that are really special to look back on, and as a young kid you take it for granted."

At just 23, Coyle is now making his own way in the game as an agent, and coach of England's amputee team. Here, he tells BBC Scotland about his ambition to follow his dad in management.

Catching the coaching bug early

Coyle is a chip off the old block. The same hurried West of Scotland accent, the same boundless positivity, the same obsession with football. After quickly realising in his early teens he would never make it as a player, he turned his focus on coaching.

"When I was at high school, every half-term I would go and see my dad for the week whether it was at Bolton or Burnley, whatever club he was at," he says.

"He let me watch and just be around the training facility. It was amazing to see professional footballers in their everyday environment and that was where he got his buzz from, and also the players.

"I knew I wanted to do something in the game and that was the first thing that jumped out at me."

By 15, Coyle was out on the grass and secured an apprenticeship with Blackpool's Community Trust. He also started doing some agency work, which would eventually lead to him launching his own sports management company.

For one so young, Coyle is already a veteran of the game, familiar with its callousness at times.

"I've had clients who I've been in contact with who are over the age of the 30 and they're scraping around trying to find a club," he explains.

"They're ultimately almost at an all-time low because they've not been able to play, they've not got a club to train at, no contract. And some of these are top players who've played in the Premier League or guys who've been billed up to be superstars but their career hasn't hit the heights that was expected of them.

"Everybody's a human being at the end of the day and everybody deserves to be valued."

Working with 'very remarkable' amputees

His work as manager of England's amputee football team is more uplifting. The Invictus Games, set up for injured armed service personnel by Prince Harry in 2014, have more publicly displayed the remarkable skills of those with a disability.

Disability football is something Coyle has been involved with for the past few years and he is frequently bowled over by the inspiring stories of those who defy serious injury to play the game.

"A lot of the players we've got have come through cancer and that's how they've lost their limb," Coyle explains. "There's others that are through birth defects, road traffic accidents, military service - so there's quite a wide range of injuries that have led to people becoming amputees or having a limb deficiency.

"But you look at their mental strength and resilience and toughness to bounce back after the accidents they've gone through. Not only that but the ability they've got, how hard they train and how they're trying to kick on and be the best they can be.

"But equally as the head coach you don't get too caught up in that. You've just got your expectations of what you want them to achieve and you put the demands on the players to achieve that.

"You treat them as any other human being and it's maybe only when you're doing interviews like this that you do sometimes take a step back and go: 'Yeah, they are very remarkable.'"

Owen Coyle
Owen Coyle is the head coach of the English amputee football team

'I want to make my own way'

Coyle's ultimate ambition is to follow his father into professional management. Cautious about suggestions of nepotism, rife in the game, he views the journey as a slow process of garnering experience.

The amputee team is a stepping stone, he hopes, in coaching and working as an agent can help with the transition too.

"We're very close, me and my dad," he says. "We speak about the different pathways and opportunities that can arise. But I've always been very big on making my own name in the game.

"It's hard having the same name as your dad because naturally everybody goes, 'well, you're Owen Coyle's son' - which is great, but I want to make my own way."

After departing Ross County in March 2018, Coyle Sr got back into management at the end of last year, joining Indian Super League side Chennaiyin as they sat second bottom of the table. The 53-year-old turned their fortunes around and led them all the way to the league's final, before ultimately falling short.

A father, looking for another challenge, and son, making his way in the game. Could they join forces one day?

"I would love to work with him," says Coyle Jr. "I went over to Chennaiyin in India in January for a couple of weeks to see him and get the opportunity to go to training and get involved a little bit and see everything that was going on.

"One day certainly, I'm not ruling that out. But for the time being I'll continue to do what I'm doing, he'll continue to do what he's doing and hopefully we'll both be successful."

Owen Coyle Senior
Owen Coyle Sr is managing in the Indian Super League

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