Friday, 30 October 2009

Owen Coyle: man for all seasons

Here's a version of a feature piece based on an interview I did with Owen Coyle, Burnley's manager. It's for the imminent edition of Scruples magazine - a contract publishing job we do for the Barrowford menswear outlet (You can see last year's here -


The global media glare and the intense pressure of the Premiership has seen some managers wilt. Yet Burnley’s young manager, Owen Coyle, thrives on it. When he came for his made-to-measure suit, we asked what makes Owen Coyle tick?

COYLE breezes into Scruples, still in his training kit from the morning’s session. It’s only a few days after the derby defeat to bitter local rivals, Blackburn Rovers, but if you’d expected Coyle to be licking his wounds, think again.

“March can’t come round quickly enough,” he comments in reference to the Turf Moor return fixture.

The positivity and enthusiasm of the man is infectious and clearly he’s cast a spell over Burnley’s players, staff and supporters. That magic has seen a middling championship side transformed to a team that went on a superb run, culminating in May’s championship play-offs, a swashbuckling display in the victory over Reading, and a trip to Wembley to blunt the Blades of Sheffield United in the final.

As Wade Elliott’s wonder goal hit the back of the net that afternoon, the realisation that Premiership football was coming to Burnley started to dawn on the club’s supporters – and they were still pinching themselves as the season started with home victories over the giants of Manchester United and Everton. That’s some testament to the power of Coyle’s positivity and charismatic leadership – but where did it all start?

“I was at Dumbarton when I was thirteen - I had a chance to sign for Dundee United, but my family felt that it would be best for me to serve my apprenticeship at Dumbarton and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was just allowed to just develop without any pressure.”

For youngsters coming into the game there’s a high failure rate, so what is it in the make-up of those that succeed?

“There are a lot of elements – ability, desire, hunger and getting the right break at the right time. When kids at sixteen are cast aside, one of two things happens - they either say well it’s natural or they try and go and get careers at other clubs.

“We have sixteen youth team players and fortunately we’ve taken 5 first year professionals on this year - and that’s not common place. So one thing I always say to young players at our club in particular is that this is a job of work and you’re privileged to be doing this. So, don’t let failure be through lack of effort.

“If we decide you’re not to be a first team player, let it be because you’ve worked your socks off and we just don’t think you’re quite good enough. It’s the most difficult part of football, I know we lose games and this and that, but when you have to relinquish the dreams of young players and tell them there’s no contract there for them, for me that’s a really difficult part of the job.”

Regarding his own motivation, it’s interesting to hear Coyle comment on what helped see him through.

“First and foremost I had a very good upbringing and a tremendous support system. I’ve got five brothers and two sisters, so when it’s going well, you never get carried away or you get a clip round the ear and they make sure you remain grounded.”

Family is a recurring theme and it clearly informs his thinking. He cites coming from The Gorbals in Glasgow, where his mother still lives, as a profound influence and he goes back as often as possible. It certainly gave him a notion of overcoming the odds and succeeding – themes he frequently returns to.

“I played weighing 10 stones, which is unheard of as a striker. I knew I was playing against bigger, physical players. So I had to find ways of overcoming and getting the better of my opponent and hopefully I made the most of what I had.”

It’s been a long journey for the kid from The Gorbals, who dreamt of emulating his idol, Liam Brady. His playing career saw him enjoy highlights such as playing for the Republic of Ireland in 1994 against Holland, knowing how much it meant to his Irish parents; he was co-manager at Falkirk when they won the Scottish first division title – he was still playing at the time and scored a hat trick on the day; and, scoring in the play-off final for Bolton in 1995, to see them promoted to the Premiership.

“And I have to say the achievement as a manager at Burnley totally surpassed the achievements as a player winning at Wembley, no doubt about that,” he adds.

For somebody so keen to play the game there must have been difficulties in the transition to manager – even this season he’s turned out for Burnley’s reserves! In addition to that, there are a range of different responsibilities.

“As a player you know that if you do well the manager’s going to pick you. As a manager, you’re not only responsible for eleven players and the team, you’re responsible for a whole town - particularly at this club.

“I absolutely love everything about the town. Most of my career was in Scotland and you’d see buses leaving to support Celtic or Rangers from every part of the country. I love the fact that the first day I was in the job, I went through the town centre and all I saw was Burnley tops. You didn’t see Man U or Liverpool. And I thought to myself, this is my type of place.

“I believe when you walk through the front doors of a place, you know if there’s an atmosphere conducive to a good working environment. And I felt that the first day I walked in at Turf Moor - so I’m big on that, I’m big on atmosphere, trying to build a family club. So, as a manager - as opposed to being a player - I think that it’s important not to just represent your club but your town well.”

“We have an unbelievable fan base – when Turf Moor’s full as it invariably is now, it’s the best possible atmosphere. I mean I’ve played at Wembley and all these 60,000 and 70,000 capacity stadiums, but I’m telling you when Turf Moor’s at capacity, it’s the best atmosphere you’ll find in football. And that’s been driving us on.

“We’re now in the Premier league and our town’s population is less than Old Trafford’s capacity. But we’re in there and we made it and we don’t want to give it up. Burnley’s support in terms of percentage of population… we’ve got the biggest support in the world. Nearly one in four comes out to watch us - no other place has that, we’ve got an unbelievable fan base."

Coyle clearly takes his responsibility to the town and area very seriously – he wants success for the team, but expresses a wish that it can have a ‘trickledown effect’, create positive headlines about the place and help with moves towards regeneration.

“There’s a perception that Burnley’s some sort of back water, well it’s not. Anybody that gives us the time of day, both in terms of the club and the town and surrounding areas will see that there are a lot of not only nice people, but quality businesses.

“We’ve all known difficult times, so I think when you have a chance to be in the limelight for whatever reason, one you don’t give it up and two you look to maximise that. It irks me that people who have never set foot in Burnley want to write us off - and it’s the same with the football team, they’ve never seen us play, but they want to write us off. So all I can say is, if it’s the football or if it’s the area, come and see the quality that’s on show - I think it’s important everybody recognises that.

“In all things, I want to be the very best I can be. And equally I want the very best for this football club. First priority is to maintain premier league status, and put a plan in place that will serve the club well for years to come.

“Who’d have thought I’d be offered the Celtic job and turn it down? Celtic’s my team and they’ll always be my team because that’s what I grew up with, but I recognise we’re in the best league in the world and we’ve got a fantastic football club - that gave me the platform.

“Brendan (Flood) and the Chairman saw enough in me to see I was the right person to take the club forward and I respected that and I said that in the summer that it was important that I showed loyalty to the club.

“I want Burnley to flourish and I want to be the manager who does that.

“I believe I can take this club on and with the right backing - not meaning to put the Chairman and Brendan under any pressure - but come January we’ll obviously need money to push things on and give us another kick again. But if it does put pressure on them, then so be it,” he jokes.

“We all we want the best for Burnley Football Club and I want to make sure we make a real go of this and we’ll leave no stone unturned in our efforts.”

Daily Telegraph covers Mobile Broadband Supermarket

I'm very please with the coverage won for our client in yesterday's Daily Telegraph - read it here

Obviously, it's pleasing to win coverage and drive traffic to the site, but it marks a real stepping up of our activity using social media.

In the past I've run campaigns where we've paid a lot of money for research - usually with I've always gone for a regional split within the questions because this means you can produce one generic national news release, but then re-write 'regionalised' versions, which sell-in really well to the big regional papers (Evening Standard, M.E.N., Liverpool Echo, Glasgow Herald etc.) - not to mention regional radio. Effectively, you give yourself several bites of the cherry.

The great thing about using Twitter in the way we are doing is that we're picking up qualitative customer feedback for free, which we can collate and then use nationally and regionally, in order to create an ongoing picture of quality of service. It's a great resource for the site, but also it gives a frequent opportunity to comment to the media!

Thursday, 22 October 2009 launches best monthly deals round up

Comparison site helps consumers identify best new deals and chance to win a PAYG Dongle!

MANCHESTER-based mobile connectivity specialists have launched a monthly round-up to make consumers aware of which networks are offering the best deals to suit their circumstances.

With mobile broadband usage is soaring, the variety of deals in the marketplace can be confusing, so provides neutral and transparent consumer support – on occasion advising consumers that want to buy a "dongle" that it might not be the right choice for them. With the dongle market set for massive growth, MobileBroadbandSupermarket's approach is to help consumers understand the variety of offerings available - not just in terms of price, but also usage limits and levels of service.

Andy Gott, Managing Director of, said: “Anybody considering a mobile broadband package, should sign up for our monthly round up, as it will keep you abreast of the best current offers. Not only will you receive a monthly email, full of the latest mobile broadband best buys, you'll also been entered into our monthly draw, which means that you're in with a chance of winning a Pay As You Go mobile broadband dongle!”

Andy Gott, continued: "The benefit of signing up for the update is that you will be able to make a confident buying decision, without doing hours of research first – it will enable you to make an informed decision about which network is offering the best mobile broadband deal to suit your circumstances.

Mobile connectivity devices, or “dongles” as they are commonly known, are an ideal way for people to stay connected on the move. They are especially useful to business travellers, who may need to get online whilst at the airport or hotel; for students, who need connectivity but may not have a fixed line connection; and also for some people in rural communities, who may not have very good ADSL coverage.

- ENDS -

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Yesterday afternoon I interviewed Burnley manager Owen Coyle for the Scruples Menswear publication that we produce. (Have a look at last year's here

He was as candid as ever - and besides the usual charm and intelligence we've all come to expect, it really struck me how professional and accomplished he is when facing the media. In a previous life I was a journalist and I can honestly say he's amongst the very best people I've interviewed. He wipes the floor with some of the chinless chief executives or vacuous vocalists I've dealt with in my time. It just goes to show, you can have all the media training in the world, but if you've got a set of values that you're passionate about and you've got a bit of personality, it can go a long way.

He was happy to chat for a while afterwards and even offered words of comfort for us Clarets who are still feeling the post-derby blues. He pointed out that Burnley completed nearly four times as many passes as our rivals - a stark indication of our different approach to the game. Referring to the return fixture, he said that March can't come quickly enough. Indeed!

When the publication comes out - in just over a week - we'll put the full transcript of Owen's interview up here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Twitter clocks up 5 billion

Social media site Twitter has clocked up 5 billion tweets. Nevermind the fact that a reasonable percentage of those will be drivel...

We're finding that Twitter is increasingly important and we're using it to successfully drive traffic to the iSM (Information Services Monthly) site -, as well as those of clients like MobileBroadbandSupermarket (MBS).

Increasingly, we're finding new applications too - along with MBS, we're planning to use twitter to generate regionalised feedback on the quality of service from Mobile Broadband network providers, so we can enhance the service on their site, but also use it as the basis for regional pieces of PR across the UK.

Read more about the 5 billionth tweet here -



Saturday, 17 October 2009

Caught in a Bubble

Tomorrow sees the resumption of hostilities in the oldest derby game in world football – Blackburn Rovers versus Burnley.

I’m one of only 3,000 Burnley fans being allowed to travel to the game, which has been designated a ‘bubble fixture’, where extraordinary police powers are invoked as a supposed means to maintain order and reduce the likelihood of violence and disorder.

This means I’ll have to be at Turf Moor, Burnley’s ground, at shortly after 9am tomorrow, to travel to Ewood Park, Blackburn’s ground, for a 1pm kick-off. The journey is just 11 miles – and our convoy of 60 coaches will take on the short journey down the M65 to get us inside the ground 2 – 3 hours before the game starts. Blackburn pubs won’t be opened before the game and there will be a massive police presence. It’s incredibly draconian and it places enormous inconvenience upon ordinary decent supporters of both clubs (the return fixture at Turf Moor is subject to the same measures) but, let’s face it, there is some history...

I’m not entirely sure where the rivalry and animosity originally comes from – but it’s a lot more than just your average local rivalry, like those that form the basis of so many other derby games. I’ve heard people say that the rivalry dates back to the civil war or the reformation – where the towns were on different sides. I’ve heard its origins were sectarian – blue and white Blackburn were supposedly a protestant club - there was certainly an imported Presbyterian Scottish element to their early history, as they were the first club to embrace ‘professionalism’ in the nineteenth century. Meanwhile Burnley’s roots may well have been more Catholic – the town saw huge Irish immigration in the nineteenth century, as its mushrooming population growth was fuelled by the ‘potato famine’ and the industrial revolution – some of my own forebears were amongst this wave of immigrants. Indeed, before we adopted our famous Claret & Blue, between 1900 and 1910 Burnley wore green shirts. I’ve also heard that as the towns industrialised, disputes arose about goods moving up and down the Leeds Liverpool canal. Burnley people alleging that Blackburn took the best cotton off the barges before they got to Burnley.

The industrial revolution however, saw football progress into a mass sport – and then as today, Lancashire was at the forefront. Both Burnley and Blackburn were amongst the founder members of the world’s first football league in 1888 and this is what arguably makes the East Lancashire Derby between these two mill towns the oldest in world football.

In the post war era, despite being champions of England 50 years ago, Burnley and its football club went into decline – the process hastened by the abolition of the maximum wage for players - a move which was bound to tilt the game in favour of the city clubs over the town clubs, due to their generally greater resources.

By the early 1980s both clubs were pale shadows of what they had once been, but the rivalry was as intense as ever – an article from the Guardian in 2000 comments:

“Burnley have not beaten their bitter rivals since 1979. In 1982-83 Blackburn achieved a league double over the Clarets with Simon Garner scoring twice at Ewood Park in April in a 2-1 victory. The visiting Burnley fans responded by throwing a smoke bomb on to the pitch and a bottle at the Rovers goalkeeper Terry Gennoe before tearing down the roof of the Darwen End. When Garner slotted home the decisive penalty, the travelling support tried to burn the stand down, despite being in it at the time, as a full-scale riot erupted.”

In the years that followed that notorious game, Burnley’s demise was complete as we had to win our last game of the season in 1987 to stay in the football league. As we began to claw our way back a few years later, we were beaten in the Fourth division play-offs by Torquay. As the dismal second leg petered out, a light aircraft buzzed Turf Moor with a banner trailing behind it – “Staying down 4 Ever – Love Rovers. Ha ha ha.”

I was in the Cricket Field Stand that night and if I’d had access to a shoulder launched anti-aircraft device I would have used it.

Shortly after that Jack Walker started pumping his millions into Blackburn and the club who had Margaret Thatcher as their honorary vice president, ascended to the pinnacle of English football ‘winning’ (buying) the title in 1995. Meanwhile, we were being relegated to the third tier after an inauspicious one season stay in the second. It was a loathsome period. We were well and truly in the doldrums and Blackburn were firmly ensconced in the happy, shiny world of the Premiership with all its millions. Many Burnley fans – myself included – blame them in part for the hideous parody the game has become...where hyper-spending has artificially created a playing field that is less even than it has ever been - the uglification of the beautiful game. Blackburn were undoubtedly complicit in starting that ball rolling – and helped sell the soul of the game for the one bite of the cherry it gave them in ’95.

The two clubs last met in the league in 2000 when we were humiliated by 0 – 2 and 5 – 0 reverses. In truth that season we were a third tier team punching above its weight in the Championship, whilst they were a Premiership outfit in all but name - they had their multi-millions and we had a brass buttons budget. Our manager at the time, Stan Ternent described the expectations of Burnley fans as 'wanting champagne football on beer money'.

Our only subsequent meeting was in the FA Cup in 2005 - a 0 – 0 draw at Turf Moor was followed by a 2 – 1 defeat at Ewood, but at least this time our pride was intact after a very creditable performance against a much superior squad.

However, since then things have changed. Blackburn’s turgid, functional, clatter-ball, lack of style has seen them become firmly established as a lower Premiership also ran. Meanwhile, with a modicum of (by current day standards) modest investment and the appointment of the charismatic and inspirational Owen Coyle as manager, Burnley have gelled into a team that has become renowned for easy-on-the-eye football that is both entertaining and effective. That culminated in a superb run during the spring that saw Burnley make the championship play-offs, and a swashbuckling display at Reading saw us then go to Wembley to blunt the Blades of Sheffield United.

As Wade Elliott’s wonder goal hit the back of the net that afternoon, I picked up my son, Jack and we went absolutely mad. It’s not lost on me that Jack’s namesake – my Grandad, who went to school just 300 metres from Turf Moor – took me to my first game along with my Dad, when I was just five years old. As the final whistle blew that day at Wembley I held both my kids aloft – Jack and Ella – both in their Burnley kits and I felt as proud as punch. I don’t mind admitting that my bottom lip had a bit of a wobble. I could barely believe we were back in the big time – there have been points when I didn’t believe I’d live to see the day.

No sooner had the initial celebrations died down than we were chanting: “Bring on the Bastards!” And, despite the presence in the Premiership of world class teams Like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United – the first fixture I looked for when this season’s list was released was Blackburn, aka "Bastard Rovers".

So, tomorrow, at last, we meet the old enemy. I have to say, I know a good number of Rovers fans – friends, acquaintances and business associates. All of them decent sorts - but tomorrow that goes out of the window. As I’m taken in a quasi-military operation to Ewood, I’ll be wishing for one thing only – that they have their most awful day in thirty years of football and I have my best.

To outside observers, it may seem parochial - a fixture caught in a timewarp, but the old cotton mill derby stirs the passions like no other. For those of us in the Claret corner of East Lancashire, this is the first time for thirty years we meet Blackburn with more than just hope. This time we know we’ve got as good a chance as we’ve had in a generation. I can barely describe how much I want this result. It would mark a right of passage and confirm – Burnley are back!


Friday, 16 October 2009

Connected Finland

Yesterday the Finnish government decided that Broadband access was a 'legal right'. This will make BTs universal service obligation look like chicken-feed - especially as they're saying they want access to 100mbps by 2015!

Read more on iSM (Information Services Monthly) here:-

Enterprising Pendle

Over the last two weeks I attended a 'Boot Camp' at which the leadership team from Enterprising Pendle (our Community Enterprise Board) and Remi Thackrey, our Enterprise Facilitator, were trained. This brings us up to the point where we can now operate as an effective board and hopefully work with active clients to help businesses and social enterprises to be successful.

Last night we had a board meeting and I was elected as chair. I'm really pleased about it - and very grateful to those colleagues who proposed and supported me. My intention is to support my colleagues and ensure we work as harmoniously as we can, whilst endeavouring to reflect the wide variety of different interests across the borough. I think our work is best summed up by the following points.

• Enterprising Pendle is a network of local people with a wide range of experience, who are drawn from every section of our community.

• Enterprising Pendle is committed to supporting local enterprise and helping people to turn their business ideas into reality.

• Enterprising Pendle is a listening network that will give you confidential, high quality, open-ended, FREE OF CHARGE help to develop your idea for a businessor a project.

• Enterprising Pendle employs and works with an Enterprise Facilitator to provide free, confidential support to local people with an idea for starting or expanding a business or project.

• Enterprising Pendle recognises that Pendle’s greatest asset is its people, and together, with a little help from our friends, we will make Pendle a better place to live, work and play.

If any of this chimes with your gut reaction, let me know, as I'd be keen to get you to meet Remi - or get you inducted, so you can become an active board member.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


We've just issued the following release for our client

Online comparison site helps consumers see the wood from the trees!

MANCHESTER-based mobile connectivity specialists have today announced that they have partnered with mokugift to plant a tree for every sale made through the site.

Andy Gott, Managing Director of, said:

“We considered ways we could be proactive about using our business to promote our commitment to sustainability – so tree planting really appealed to us. We’re delighted to be partnering with mokugift as they are an official partner of the United Nations Environment Programme's Billion Tree Campaign.”

“We love technology, but we're all active outdoor types too, and if we're not squeezing in a long weekend surfing in North Wales, or cycling in the Pennines, we're taking a well earned break for a snowboarding trip to the Alps.”

“There's nothing we love more than being involved with, and thoroughly enjoying, the planet on which we live, and it's very important to us that we do what we can to help keep it healthy.”

“At, we view technology as a potential means to reduce our impact on the planet – we can reduce international travel and therefore our carbon emissions using tele-conferencing, video-conferencing and webinars. And, of course this is all vastly enhanced by the ability to use your dongle and connect from anywhere.”

Mokugift plant trees in tropical zones as they have been proven to be the most beneficial to the fight against global warming. The trees they plant help reduce climate change and global warming by absorbing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. An average tree inhales 26 lbs of carbon dioxide per year and exhales enough Oxygen for a family of four for a year. Trees also reflect solar radiation back into space by evaporating water back into the atmosphere to increase cloudiness.

- ENDS -

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

LinkedIn clocks up 50 million users

LinkedIn, the professional users social media, has announced that they have just surpassed 50 million users.

Not quite Facebook numbers, but pretty impressive for a niche network. It took nearly sixteen months for LinkedIn to reach its first million users. The last million took only 12 days. And all this whilst other social media sites have seen plateaus in growth.

Also LinkedIn seems to be devoid of spam or bot accounts - a good thing considering the 'friends' I've made on Twitter who are implausibly attractive young women who seem to want to sell me their 'hot pics'!

Anyway, for those of you interested, you can find me at:-

Friday, 9 October 2009

Social Media Revolution

I spoke at an event a couple of weeks ago about networking for new businesses. I thought it would be useful to go beyond 'organic' networking with people and also look at some of the issues raised by networking via social media.

We've had some success with this approach at BrandSpankin' ( using the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (amongst others!). For example we've quadrupled traffic to iSM ( using LinkedIn and we've significantly assisted MobileBroadbandSupermarket ( already as well as built a number of inbound links, which is great for their SEO strategy.

We've also just put a Facebook group together for Scruples menswear. We produce an annual 60 page magazine for Scruples which is distributed to their database of 4,500+ customers that they've gained over 25 years. You can have a look at last year's magazine here:-

Our intention is to carry a piece in the 2009 magazine promoting membership of the Scruples Menswear Facebook group. As the number of members grows it will give them an opportunity to message members with offers and updates on new lines, as well as their made-to-measure service. It's cheaper than direct mailing (given that it's free!) and they can track an immediate response!

Businesses that are in any doubt about digital marketing are overlooking the fact that by going digital, you can hit your targets in context and in location, rather than taking an old fashioned, expensive, and somewhat scattergun approach. As mobile marketing explodes onto the scene in the next year or so, the landscape will change beyiond recognition.

Anyway, if you're not entirely convinced, don't take my word for it - check this out:-

Thursday, 8 October 2009


I've just seen the new Trust4Business site - they're our landlords here at Pendle Innovation Centre. The BrandSpankin' office is depicted in the shot on the page I've linked to! The site was done by Door4 - their MD Leon Calverley took the shot of us in action.

And, on a related note, I heard over the weekend that Leon had just become Dad to a baby girl, Emma Rose. Conratulations to Leon and Kat!

Friday, 2 October 2009 launches FREE student guide to Dongles

Free guide seeks to help student’s make informed decisions and save money, the online comparison service, has launched a web –based student guide to help students choose the best mobile connectivity to suit their circumstances.

The document is hosted on the site at:-

The guide is free to everybody - so students can download it, but it’s also being made freely available to webmasters on student sites and forums and editors on student publications.

Andy Gott, the managing director of, said:
“We published this guide to help students avoid some of the pitfalls involved with mobile broadband contracts, such as hidden charges and service performance issues. With so many students now considering mobile broadband as an alternative to land line based broadband, these considerations are becoming more important for students wanting to set up a broadband connection during their time at university.”

“We've timed the publication to coincide with fresher’s weeks up and down the country, as this is the time when many students start to think about how they're going to get connected to the internet.”

Recent research has shown that Pay as you go mobile (PAYG) broadband deals are extremely popularity among undergraduates living on a limited budget. Some reports have suggested pre-paid mobile broadband sales have risen by over 70 per cent

Whilst students are aware of the flexibility of some of these deals, some packages incur hidden charges and performance issues. The PAYG dongle route also offers students an alternative to land lines and arguments about usage and billing with house and flat-mates.

With the launch of the student guide, are seeking to add clarity to the marketplace and help students to avoid the pitfalls.

Andy Gott added: “We want to ensure that students can make an informed decision based on the dongle deals that best meet their requirements, rather than marketing hype.”

The PDF student guide is entirely free to use and redistribute - and it’s less than 160kb (which is smaller than many web pages), so shouldn't cause any problems for webmasters who decide to host it on their sites.

In addition, are happy to advise anybody requiring any technical assistance to upload the guide to their sites.

The document is hosted on the site at:-