JASON SCOTLAND always thought Owen Coyle had the potential to be a top boss.
Clarets chief Coyle has thrust his name into the list of most-talked about managers outside the Premier League over the past few months, thanks in the main to an unexpected play-off push and an even less likely giant-killing run to the Carling Cup semi-finals.
But Scotland was aware of the former Bolton man’s talents before his recent emergence, having enjoyed a successful spell under him at St Johnstone.
Swansea’s talisman from Trinidad came within 90 minutes of firing the Perth side to the SPL two seasons back – before heading to South Wales that same summer and proceeding to cement star status at the Liberty Stadium.
And, as the pair get ready for a reunion in tomorrow’s televised Championship clash, Scotland admitted the former Eire international’s people skills are a key reason why success has followed him from north of the border.
“I obviously know him very well,” said Scotland, on the man who snapped him up for the then Scottish First Division Saints after work-permit problems ended the Soca Warrior’s stay with Dundee United in 2005, the forward firing 33 goals in 66 subsequent appearances.
“I liked him and he must have liked me because he didn’t want me to leave when I did and wanted me to stay in Scotland.
“That didn’t happen, but he was really good for me and was a good man, somebody you could always talk to – I respect him for that.
“He was definitely a people’s manager, a manager who you wouldn’t think twice about knocking on his door to have a word with him – and then he would listen to everything you had to say.
“He’s a real people’s guy and I never had a problem with him and I don’t think anyone else there had a bad word to say about him.
“He would always listen to what the players had to say, but he would still do things his way. He would just make people feel comfortable around him and working with him.
“And I think that’s probably the main factor why he’s done so well, because by doing that he gets players at the top of their game.
“To be honest, I still thought it would be tough for him first of all because the Championship is a tough league and it’s about results straight away,” he continued.
“But he’s come in and got the results he’s deserved which is a bit of a surprise because he hadn’t done a lot of coaching before – St Johnstone was his first job before he went to Burnley.
“But he’s obviously doing very well. If players want to play for you and give their all for you then it’s job done for me, that’s the key.
“And he must be doing that at Burnley for them to beat Arsenal and Chelsea, but also beating them by playing in the way he wants.
“The energy he’s given them shows people want to play for them like I did in Scotland. I’m pleased for him.”
But it’s doubtful Coyle will be pleased to see his former charge come the later afternoon kick-off in Lancashire tomorrow, the nine-goal frontman having been rested for the 1-1 draw at the Liberty back in September.
“We had a big game against Cardiff a few days later so perhaps that was in the gaffer’s mind a little bit,” recalled Scotland.
“He (Coyle) came up to me and said he was surprised I didn’t start – and I was disappointed, but I understood the reasons.
“But it will be different this time. We have the FA Cup game on the Tuesday, but we know the league is more important and I think I will get the nod and hopefully I will get the chance to get one over on him by starting and scoring.
“It’s not about proving points because he knows what I can do, it’s more about putting one over on him for old time’s sake.”
Not that Scotland needs extra motivation for a first outing since his afternoon of frustration at St Andrews, missing two glaring chances late on that would have earned a deserved win over Birmingham.
Prior to that game the 29-year-old had hit four goals in five games and seemed to be warming up to a run of goals that could have helped make Swans’ recent polished performances that much more profitable.
And there is the sense that Scotland now needs to have a second crack at such a streak as Roberto Martinez’s men begin a week that will see their rearranged third round tie with Histon sandwiched between the Burnley contest and the visit of promotion-chasing Reading.
Burnley owe success to my old boss Coyle, says Scotland
Swansea Evening Post
JASON Scotland comes up against his old boss this weekend believing people skills have been key to Owen Coyle's Burnley success story.
Coyle (inset) was hailed as a young Bill Shankly by Burnley director Brendan Flood when he took the reins at Turf Moor 14 months ago.
And while Shankly comparisons may still seem a little premature, the Scot has gone at least part of the way towards living up to the hype.
Burnley were a mid-table Championship side who were looking anxiously below rather than hopefully above when Coyle succeeded Steve Cotterill in November 2007.
And, after steering them to safety last season, the former Bolton striker has inspired an upturn in fortunes which has put Burnley firmly in the race for promotion to the Premier League, not to mention the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
Scotland, who worked with Coyle at previous club St Johnstone, reckons the respect he commands from players is the key strength of his management style.
"Owen Coyle is a people's manager," says Swansea City's leading scorer.
"As a player you wouldn't think twice about going and knocking on his door to have a word with him because he would always listen to everything you had to say and take it with an open mind.
"I never had a problem with Owen when I was at St Johnstone and I don't think any of the other players did. He always tried to listen to what people had to say.
"He wanted to do things his way, but he tried to make the people around him feel as comfortable as possible and the players responded to that."
Coyle arrived at St Johnstone shortly before Scotland, who joined the Scottish First Division side in the summer of 2005.
The Perth club went close to promotion to the top flight that season and reached the semi-finals of the Scottish League Cup and Scottish Cup, with Scotland netting 16 goals along the way.
In their second campaign together, Scotland struck 26 times as Coyle's team lost out to Gretna in the race for promotion on the final day of the season.
Scotland headed south, joining Swansea in the summer of 2007, before Coyle followed suit a few months later.
"When he got the job at Burnley I thought it might be tough because the Championship is all about getting results," Scotland admits.
"But he has done really well and I think the fact that he is a people's man will have been the main factor.
"He can relate to the players and get them playing for him.
"I watched the cup game when they beat Arsenal and you could see that the players were playing the way the manager wanted and that they were giving their all for him.
"Owen had the players playing for him at St Johnstone and it looks like it's exactly the same at Burnley. For me, that's half a manager's job done."
Coyle had hoped to keep Scotland in Scotland, but the pull of English football was too great when Swansea came calling.
"He is a good man and I respected him," Scotland adds.
"He was always approachable, and he always gave me time off to go home to Trinidad as well."
Scotland may be full of admiration for his old manager, but that doesn't mean he won't be keen to upset Coyle's current team tomorrow.
In fact, it only adds to Scotland's determination to impress.
"I was only a substitute when we played them at home and Owen said to me after the game that he was surprised I didn't start.
"We had a big game against Cardiff in the cup that week and that was probably why I didn't, which I understood. But, hopefully, I will get the nod this time and, hopefully, I can score a goal.
"It's not about proving a point to Owen Coyle because he knows what I can do, but it would be nice to get one over on him."
It would be pleasing, too, for Scotland to reach double figures in his first Championship campaign.
He is currently stuck on nine goals — a tally which would have been better had he taken one of the three chances which came his way late in Swansea's last game, the goalless draw at Birmingham almost a fortnight ago.
"I was annoyed not to score there because I have been on a good little run," says the Trinidad & Tobago international.
"But the gaffer and Bonner (Graeme Jones) have said it's no problem.
"They said if they want the chances to fall to anyone, they want them to fall me and that I will put them away."
Had he managed that at St Andrew's, Swansea would now have ended their remarkable run of draws.
As it is, Martinez's men go into the televised clash with the Clarets knowing another share of the spoils will see them rewrite the Football League record books.
"We have been playing good football and haven't got the points we've deserved," reckons Scotland.
"But we are not getting beaten, and the defenders are happy because they are getting clean sheets.
"They say they've got a clean sheet and we've only got one point because of the strikers.
"There's been some good banter around the team about that. Hopefully, we'll be able to get a goal or two this weekend to keep them quiet."