FORMER Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba says he was “devastated” to see Owen Coyle lose his job and believes whoever replaces him has to get the club promoted back to the Premier League.
The Trotters have struggled since relegation to the second tier and lie 18th after collecting a mere 11 points from ten matches. Such form saw Coyle sacked on Tuesday morning after nearly three years at the Reebok Stadium helm – a move Muamba was sad to see.
The midfielder was forced to retire from football after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing for Bolton in March, with Coyle praised for his support in the aftermath.
Doctors revealed that the 24-year-old’s heart had stopped beating for 78 minutes, but he was eventually stabilised and went on to make a recovery which some described as miraculous.
“Owen was very supportive to me and I am grateful for that,” Muamba said. “If you look at the start of the season, the guys have not been playing particularly well and the results have not been up to the standards we thought with the players we’ve got in the team.
“I was obviously devastated to see he was going, but I am sure the club and the chairman will bring someone in to get promoted because we need to get promoted.
“In football you make changes and sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. We just have to wait and see how the club react.
“Football is a results game and you get paid and picked if you play well. If you don’t, you get out the team.
“For players, it is the same as a manager. You stay in the job as long as the boys are performing for the team.
“I can understand exactly where the club came from, but, at the end of the day, he did a great job for the club and I am grateful to him.”
Muamba was speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge, where he was presented with a Brazil shirt by Ronaldo.
He was coy when asked about his own future in the game and is enjoying some time off.
“I have just been enjoying life, spending time with my family,” Muamba said. “I am writing a book at the moment, which will hopefully be out in November.
“I have been travelling as well, but I never watch much football because I get really frustrated. As a professional, you get frustrated not being involved.
“I have been spending time with family, friends and catching up with a lot of people – doing things I wasn’t able to do when I was playing. I have time to do it now.”
Former Aberdeen and Dundee United manager Alex Smith, meanwhile, yesterday hit out at the “disgraceful” treatment of Coyle by Bolton.
“I think it is an absolute disgrace what has happened to Owen Coyle at Bolton,” said Smith. “You are only talking a couple of months ago that he was one of the most outstanding, promising young managers in the country.
“Owen has done a magnificent job. Last season a situation developed, nothing to do with football, when Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart attack and was medically dead for a period.
“He handled that situation magnificently and it had a bearing on results and their position in the league. He handled it, no other official handled it – he was the only one ever speaking to the cameras and representing the football club with dignity.
“He was doing a great job at Burnley, he is offered the Celtic job which he turns down and decides to go to Bolton because of his loyalty for that football club, and this is how they repay him.
“People need to ask the decision makers: ‘Why did you sack that man?’ It’s typical of some of these money men – they don’t have the guts for the job they are in.”
Smith is currently assistant-manager at Falkirk, the club at which Coyle cut his managerial teeth in 2003. And he has no doubt the young coach will bounce back from the dismissal.
He added: “I don’t think a boy like Owen Coyle deserves this treatment. He doesn’t deserve it because he is a great character, knows the game so well and is incredibly enthusiastic.
“He will be a big manager with somebody else – another top club.”