Last night I attended the Home Nations Masters tournament. To be honest, I always thought of Masters football being like supermarket own-branded food. It’s close to the real thing but just not as good. Anyway, a friend got given some free corporate tickets so off we went.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a lot more competitive than I thought and it was fun to see some former star players having the fitness level of, well me! I would definitely go again.
To anyone who doesn’t know, the Home Nations are England, Wales, Scotland and they combined Northern and the Republic of Ireland. Masters football is an indoor 6-a side game comprising of two 8-minute halves.
Sitting on the front row I had a great view and every time Ireland played, one player in particular stood out. Owen Coyle, the Burnley manager, who played vey well and scored a couple of good goals and everyone was surprised, including himself, when he was overlooked for player of the tournament..
The Ireland team had a lot of talent, and crucially players that had only just ended their playing careers (Mark Kinsella, Jason McAteer) but they were lead to the title by Coyle, and it seems to me that he will one day achieve greatness as a manager.
Coyle lead Ireland with passion (getting right in the face of referee Jeff Winter after not getting a call when he was bodychecked into the boards), skill, good finishing and most of all, organisation. While there seemed to be no discernable tactics for any of the games, Coyle was constantly instructing his players whilst on the pitch, pointing out passes, marshalling players into space etc. The man seemed hell-bent on winning, taking it a lot more seriously than most.
It is no coincidence that Burnley has done very well since Coyle took over in 2007. Last season they amassed their highest points total for 8 years and this season are in the playoff picture and will be an outside bet for promotion to the Premier League. Also, you may recall they reached the semi-finals of the Carling cup, unluckily losing to Spurs in extra-time. They also made it to the fifth round of the FA Cup, losing to Arsenal.
Coyle has had to operate on a shoestring budget, but has used what money he has had well. Chris Eagles and Martin Paterson are two of the best players outside of the Premier League.
Coyle seems to be very driven, likes his teams to play attacking football and seems to know when his players need an arm round their shoulder and when they need a kick up the backside. He reminds me of a certain Alex Ferguson.
Coyle narrowly missed out on the Bolton job last season, before becoming Burnley manager, and it seems only a matter of time before he is managing at the top level, with Burnley or another team, and I expect him to be a great success.
The funniest moment in the tournament came in the England v Scotland game when Don Hutchinson let rip an absolute string of profanities at Jeff Winter, who had a few of his own in reply. The two of them had been sharing some good-natured banter all evening but it looked like it was all going to boil over for a moment.
All the players seemed happy to be playing. Ian Rush was a gentleman, as always, happily posing for pictures but Iwan Roberts deserves a special mention. There was a family of Wales fans sat next to me and he took the time to come over and talk to them between games, and was even giving the kids bottles of water from the players stash! He seems like a genuinely good guy.