Former Burnley boss Owen Coyle says supporters’ attitudes towards him won’t ever change the way he feels about the club.
The 52-year-old church-goer was damned as ‘Judas’ following his Turf Moor exit in early 2010 as he joined Premier League rivals Bolton Wanderers.
The Scot, who signed off with a 2-1 win away at MK Dons in the FA Cup, was at the epicentre of fans’ vehement demonstrations that ensued.
Thousands travelled to Burnden Way just weeks later to protest his move as the two sides met at the formerly known Reebok Stadium.
And the atmosphere was similarly hostile and intimidating the following season as Coyle, and assistant Steve Davis, returned with Wanderers in the League Cup.
Speaking ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Clarets’ Championship play-off final victory over Sheffield United, Coyle claimed that he could understand the contempt and vitriol aimed in his direction, though he’ll never condone the behaviour.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” he said. “Things could have happened differently, without going in to the ins and outs of it all.
“I’ve had criticism for that, but it doesn’t change anything. I understand football. When you have that rapport, the feeling and the togetherness that we had, I can understand it when you’re no longer there and a part of that.
“I’m not saying it’s right, but I totally understand why people get so upset because it’s such a passionate game. We love the game, it’s all consuming.
“I certainly understood why people would vent. It didn’t make it right because there are loads of ins and outs that people don’t know. I understood that could happen because that’s the nature of football, but it doesn’t take away the feelings I have and the moments we shared.”
Reminders of some of Coyle’s successes as a manager adorn the shelves of an out-house at his Ribble Valley home, where signed shirts from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo provide an eye-catching backdrop.
Coyle, who has also been at the helm at Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers, was a two-time Premier League Manager of the Month recipient, both with Bolton.
But guiding the Clarets back to the top flight for the first time in 33 years will always stand as his greatest achievement as a coach.
He said: “It was a wonderful time, it’s such a brilliant club. We take a great sense of pride in being a part of the history of that wonderful football club.
“Nobody wishes that club more success than I do. I feel very fortunate and very privileged to have played a small part in helping the club get to where it is.
“We had such a fantastic journey together. The fans were outstanding and I’ve got to thank them for that. They stuck with the manager and the team and that’s why Burnley is such a special club. They’re passionate about their team and they give everyone a fair opportunity. Hand on heart, I can’t say anything negative about that Burnley support.
“They backed me to the hilt and we had some special times. Nobody can say that, while we were there, we didn’t work our socks off.”