English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers' most talked-about connection to the Houston Dynamo — their opponent in the Dynamo Charities Cup on July 20 — is Stuart Holden. The Scottish-born, Texas-raised midfielder spent four years with the Dynamo, winning the love of the fans, two MLS Cups, and a spot in the U.S. national team before moving to northern England.
However, there is a lesser-known link between the two sides, one between the team bosses that dates back 17 years.
Houston’s Dominic Kinnear first met Bolton manager Owen Coyle when Kinnear, himself a Scotland-born U.S. international, trialed at Bolton in 1994. At the time, Coyle was in the midst of two-year stint with Wanderers. Now, more than a decade-and-a-half later, the two will be counterparts when their clubs meet next week.
“When I was a player at Bolton, Dominic came over on trial, and I actually got on really well with him,” Coyle told MLSsoccer.com via phone. “He was a terrific player, and he’s shown that he’s a terrific coach and manager.”
While they are slated to be opponents, the pair of Scottish-born managers have a healthy respect for one another. Their respect is not surprising considering both share a number of similarities in their managerial styles, specifically in the type of atmosphere they try to foster at their respective clubs.
“I think if you look at his demeanor on the bench, it’s very positive,” said Kinnear about his July 20 counterpart. “It’s almost like he’s ready to go in the game himself, because he’s so involved in it and you can tell he cares so much about it.”
That positivity stretches into the way they build and handle their clubs. Both managers are known for valuing attitude and leadership off the pitch as much as they do skill on it. When Coyle spoke to MLSsoccer.com by phone last month, the Bolton manager was clear that he strives to create a family atmosphere for his side. That’s a trait attributed to Kinnear’s teams in both San Jose and Houston, largely stemming from the tight-knit groups he has fielded in his time as a manager.
“Watching him on the managerial side, what he’s been able to do is very impressive,” Kinnear said. “From what you hear from the players, [it’s] about how positive he is and how positive he is with them. When you look at his press releases, he’s always very positive about what they’ve been doing, and that attitude had an effect on where they finished in the standings.”
Bolton ended last season 14th in the Premiership table but were solidly in the fight for a spot in Europa League play before a midseason injury to Holden played a role in their fade down the stretch. Their preparations for 2011-12 are underway, with the club training and playing two friendlies in Florida before arriving in Houston on Monday.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.