A COUPLE of weeks ago, this blog touched on Ray Wilkins’ brief yet glorious alternative career as an advertising voiceover artist for Tango. But it should be pointed out that he’s not the only football manager to be associated with a orange-coloured soft drink.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle is, to all intents and purposes, the unofficial public face of Irn-Bru, the hard man’s Tizer. Coyle is teetotal, and in a culture as wedded to alcohol as Britain’s is, that’s seen as the sort of wild eccentricity which needs to be remarked on over and over again, and possibly made into a BBC Three documentary. (Coming this autumn: Help! I’m Not Pissed Enough To Agree To Appear On BBC Three.)
When Coyle was on the verge of leading Burnley to the Premier League a little over 18 months ago, he told journalists that, in the event of winning the Championship play-off final against Sheffield United, he would celebrate with a can of Irn-Bru.
And his old mate Alex McLeish sent him a crate of the stuff when Coyle’s Burnley beat one of Birmingham’s promotion rivals late on in that same season. Why Barr’s haven’t contacted Coyle to get him to appear in their adverts, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps he’s not as amenable to doing ads as Wilkins once was.
Irn-Bru has had a few advertising slogans in its time (the poster campaign with the cow saying ‘When I’m a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn-Bru’ is a personal favourite, but then I’m not vegetarian).
One of its more famous slogans, though, is ‘Made in Scotland from girders’, popularised in the 1980s by a delightful parody of the Robin Beck-soundtracked soft-focus impossibly-glamorous-American-kids-having-a-better-time-than-you’ll-ever-manage-you-loser Coca Cola ads of the period. Actually, watching it now, I’m sure I can see a young Coyle in there.
Perhaps the power of Irn-Bru is behind Bolton’s rise to Europa League contention under Coyle. On Boxing Day last year, Wanderers lay in the Premier League’s bottom three after a 1-1 draw at Coyle’s Burnley, who sat pretty comfortable in 13th, despite travelling about as well as a pint of Guinness. Three days later, after a 2-2 draw at home to Hull, Bolton sacked Gary Megson.
When Wanderers then made an approach for Coyle, and he accepted, I wondered if he had made the right choice. Sure, he had a bigger budget at the Reebok, but he seemed to be on the verge of establishing Burnley in the Premier League. Ah well, shows what I knew. I would put my misjudgement down to the drink, were it not for the fact that I’m teetotal too. Mind you, I can’t stand Irn-Bru.
MOTD’s final match: Bolton 2 West Brom 0
Commentator: John Roder
Not only has Coyle improved Bolton’s league position by 12 places in 12 months, he’s also got them playing attractive football. (Mark Davies’ goal in the 2-2 draw against Blackpool last month finished one of the most sublime passing moves seen in the Premier League this season.)
They were perhaps fortunate to beat an equally tidy West Brom side at the Reebok yesterday (Albion could have had at least a couple of goals if they’d shown any kind of composure in front of goal), but victory was secured thanks to Matt Taylor and Johan Elmander, a striker who was once marginally less prolific than Donna Tartt.
Bolton are sixth now, having briefly occupied a Champions League position after thrashing Newcastle last month. There’s a decent chance that Coyle may lead Bolton into the Europa League next season.
He’ll be fine as long as Wanderers don’t get drawn against a team from Finland, where Irn-Bru is apparently banned due to its colouring ingredient, or Norway, where it is not sold due to a lack of production agreements. Coyle without his Irn-Bru would, I fear, be like Batman without his utility belt.
1. Fulham: 5 (2L: 4, 3L: 0)
2.Wigan: 5 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
3. Stoke: 4 (2L: 4, 3L: 2)
4. Bolton: 4 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
5. West Brom: 3 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
6. Blackburn: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 5)
7. Birmingham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
8. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
9. Everton: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
10. Sunderland: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 0)
11. West Ham: 2 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
12. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
13. Blackpool: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
14. Aston Villa: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
15. Tottenham: 0 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
16. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L=On second last (Blackburn 0 Stoke 2)
3L=On third last (Wolves 1 Wigan 2)
(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony in Wapping, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Vince Cable, Tony Gubba and Rupert Murdoch, with music from Jeremy Hunt and James Naughtie.)