Leadership and the Unexpected: Owen Coyle

It was one of those times when the back page made the front page. Fabrice Muamba of Bolton Wanderers collapsed from a heart attack during their game against Tottenham Hotspur.

Nobody expects one of the most athletic young men in the country to suffer a heart attack at the age of 23. I am sure that no football manager has thought (at least until last week) about how to approach such a problem.

Coyle had to face a player at death’s door with a family in shock, as well as distraught colleagues. And Bolton and London are over 200 miles apart.

Add to that the huge media interest, and the fact that there were scheduled matches to play.

Owen Coyle has been magnificent, from removing the media burden from the family, to allowing his players to decide for themselves whether to play in Bolton’s next game.

It is in dealing with an unexpected crisis that true leadership is manifested. Every leader should, of course, think ahead about how to address various eventualities. But it is the ability to “play what is in front of you,” to adapt, and to cope with the totally unexpected which is the real test. And Coyle gets an A*.


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