Early Doors

Coyle good… or Megson bad?

Early Doors

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Is Owen Coyle a really, really
good manager, or is Gary Megson a really, really bad one?

The Ginger Mourinho, you may
remember, was sacked by Bolton (or rather, put on extended gardening leave),
last year with the Trotters languishing in the relegation zone.

Coyle has taken them to
fifth, and on Saturday they absolutely mullered (there is frankly no other
word) Newcastle 5-1.

Megson's last game was a 2-2
draw against Hull on December 29 last year, and this is the starting XI:

Jaaskelainein, Steinsson,
Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Chung-Yong Lee, Muamba, Cohen, Taylor, Davies,
Klasnic.

And here's the starting XI
Coyle picked for Saturday's game:

Jaaskelainen, Ricketts,
Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Chung-Yong Lee, Muamba, Holden, Taylor, Davies,
Elmander.

Eight of the side that beat
Newcastle also started against Hull. Of the remaining three, Johan Elmander and
Sam Ricketts were on the bench for Megson's last game, leaving Stuart Holden as
the only newcomer - plucked from MLS obscurity for no fee.

Now you can spin this one of
two ways, and in light of recent 'Damien Comolli was great for Tottenham'
revisionism there is an easy pro-Megson argument.

On the face of it, he could
justifiably point out that he deserves much of the credit for Bolton's present
success, having brought most of the side to the Reebok - Elmander, Muamba,
Ricketts, Knight, Robinson and Lee were all Megson signings.

But it is one thing signing
good players; quite another getting them to play well. And it seems like Megson
spent most of his time yelling until his face was redder than his hair.

Here's
Elmander on Megson's man-management style versus Coyle's: "It doesn't help to stare and scream at me. I got tired the more of it I heard. Owen Coyle is a great coach, who I
really enjoy working with. As
soon as he came to the club I started to play well, even though the goals
didn't come right away."

Gretar Steinsson, another Megson signing,
had this to say on Saturday: "It's totally different from the
first years when I was here, being in a team that actually believe they can get
points against the strong sides instead of just hoping for a draw."

And skipper Kevin
Davies added: "The confidence is high and I think the belief is starting
to creep in among the players. The manager is doing a fantastic job keeping
everybody happy."

Footballers are simple folk, by and large. Tell them they can't
win, and they won't. Tell them they can, and they just might.

This is what so enraged Scottish fans about Craig Levein's infamous
4-6-0 formation against the Czech Republic.

It's not that a goalless draw in Prague wouldn't have been a decent
result. 000It is that, by picking no strikers, Levein effectively informed his
players that they could not score a goal so there was no point trying.

It was an attitude that not only ruled out the possibility of victory -
it made defeat almost inevitable.

It seems Coyle has convinced his players they are not the prehistoric
Bolton cloggers of cliche, but that they can actually play a bit. And low and
behold, they can.

Early Doors spent Saturday afternoon looking at two monitors. On the
left-hand side, Manchester United were stumbling to a deeply unconvincing win
against the nine men of Wigan.

On the right hand side, Bolton were ripping Newcastle to shreds in
gloriously swaggering fashion.

It would be a lie to say ED had trouble telling who was Manchester
United and who was Bolton, as that would have required no knowledge of any
players from either side, their kit, their stadium or their opposition. But you
get the idea.

Suffice it to say Bolton were by far the more entertaining, ambitious
and downright skilful team.

There is still a place in football for the well-organised side that
seeks to nullify first, and considers scoring as an afterthought - think Otto
Rehhagel's Greece or Ottmar Hitzfeld's Switzerland.

But it actually takes a huge amount of organisation and skill to keep a
clean sheet against top-class opponents. The odd side will do it now and again,
but it is not easy.

Ian Holloway quickly diagnosed this about his Blackpool side when they
lost 6-0 at Arsenal in the second game of the season.

There is no point most teams trying to defend against the top teams in
the Premier League, since they are not good enough to keep them at bay for 90
minutes.

Far better to roll the dice, hence Blackpool played the second half at
Chelsea with four up front (yes, ED is aware they lost 4-0).

Holloway has realised all-out attack is not actually a risky strategy at
all, but the best way of playing the percentages.

If the Seasiders won 13 games out of 38 this season and lost the rest,
they would probably stay up. Play for draws, and you could take a point from
every single game and be in a worse position.

There is method in Ollie's madness. And if he keeps it up, he could be
managing Bolton one day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Carlo Ancelotti: "You
compare me with Ferguson, it's a different position. Ferguson has total control
of the team. I have just technical direction. Full stop. OK?" And with
that, an 'Ancelotti in Blues quit shock' headline was born.

FOREIGN VIEW: Inter
Milan's crisis intensified on Sunday with a 2-1 defeat at Chievo, where Samuel
Eto'o committed a Zinedine Zidane-like headbutt that could result in a lengthy
suspension.

Inter president Massimo
Moratti gave coach Rafael Benitez his backing after last weekend's derby defeat
by leaders AC Milan, but another loss has left the Spaniard exposed with the
champions now nine points off top spot.

Eto'o was not cautioned by
the referee for his headbutt, but the Cameroon striker could be punished
retrospectively.

He scored Inter's
consolation goal late on after Sergio Pellissier and Davide Moscardelli put
Chievo two up.

"It's clear after a
defeat no one is happy but the only thing I can say is the players worked hard
and the reaction in the second half on an awful pitch was the reaction we
expect," a solemn Benitez, whose side have taken two points from four
games, told Sky.

"What Eto'o did is not
something good but he took a punch first and it was provocation. He lost a bit
of control, that's clear."

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