A burning ambition and a belief that he can drive Ross County to greater heights took Owen Coyle home to Scotland after close to a decade in England’s billionaires’ playground.
The man who famously guided Burnley into the Premiership, before knocking back the Celtic job in summer 2009, was paraded yesterday at the Global Energy Stadium after agreeing a two-year deal with the Dingwall club.
Coyle, 51, is joined at the struggling Ladbrokes Premiership outfit by trusty past assistant manager Sandy Stewart and former Scotland and Bolton Wanderers striker John McGinlay, who will head up recruitment.
The distinguished past striker, who most recently managed at Blackburn Rovers and US club Houston Dynamo, declared stemming a run of defeats as his priority but is confident he will be backed financially by chairman Roy MacGregor, pictured, in improving the squad.
Coyle, who started his coaching career at Falkirk, Airdrie and as outright manager at St Johnstone before the 2007 move to Burnley, stressed club principles and ethos were far more important to him than the mega-bucks of managing in England.
Jim McIntyre was sacked by County on Sunday after a seven-game run without victory, including five defeats in the last six league games.
The move by MacGregor, while broadly welcomed by supporters, drew heavy criticism from media observers who questioned the timing and just how much higher McIntyre could reasonably take the club after a 2016 League Cup triumph and a top-six league finish.
Coyle, a good friend of McIntyre and departing assistant Billy Dodds, pointed to St Johnstone’s track record as a provincial club as proof of what more might be achieved.
He said: “I’m delighted to be here. When the chairman asked me if I was interested, knowing I’d been up here on loan as a player, then of course it was of huge interest.
“Having also brought my teams up here I knew the infrastructure. After a few chats about how we thought we could progress the club – and we’re both as ambitious as when we first started in the game – I’m just excited to get started.
“Jim and Doddsy are good pals of mine but, when it happens in football, we have to move on quickly as we have done.
“I’m looking forward to getting smiles on players’ faces, moving forward and winning games. There’s some good players here.
“The chairman rang me Monday afternoon and I was flattered because he’d already been inundated by calls and applications.
“He asked if I was interested and, knowing the chairman as I do, I knew how infectious and enthusiastic he was. I knew how much he, his colleagues and friends have poured into the club, not just in finance, but in emotion and time too.
“It takes a real passion and care for the club to progress as Ross County have, year-on-year.
“People say Ross County aren’t the biggest club in the world, but what they do have is principles.
“I like to think they have that in abundance and a lot of the big clubs don’t have that, I would suggest. There’s a lot to be excited about.”
Asked if County had reached a glass ceiling in terms of success, Coyle calmly suggested otherwise.
He said: “The club hasn’t won at home this season and that’s factual. We have to change that. That takes a lot of hard work and being on the training ground, replicating it on the pitch and coming out on the right side of those margins.
“In Scotland’s top flight, there’s a big gap after Celtic and then there’s a few other clubs with bigger budgets. Then there’s a number of clubs you have to come on the right side of.
“St Johnstone are the perfect example of that. They’d been nearly relegated from the First Division when I came in so we had to put the building blocks in place to achieve success.
“They have become a fantastic example of how you can achieve consistent success from a modest outlay.”