McCarthy in frame for comeback with Bolton
Mick McCarthy is facing competition for the managerial vacancy at Bolton Wanderers, with Alan Curbishley and Phil Brown emerging as a surprise partnership that is ready to apply for the post.
The Lancashire club have sacked Owen Coyle after two and a half years at the Reebok Stadium with his side lingering above the relegation zone in the Championship.
Coyle managed just three wins from the opening 10 games of the season, with Wanderers now only three points clear of the bottom three.
More pertinently, the club has only won 14 of its last 54 league matches -- they dropped out of the Premier League last season following an 11-year stay.
McCarthy is the front-runner, with his old adversary Roy Keane not too far behind. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who won the Norwegian League with Molde last season, is another contender.
Keane turned down an approach from Turkish club Kasimpasa last week, with his sights set on a move back into English management following Steve Kean's departure at Blackburn. With the Ewood Park club still working through a list of candidates, Keane would also be attracted by the challenge at Bolton -- who are a more stable operation off the pitch than their local rivals. That solid reputation is also what has drawn McCarthy to the role.
Curbishley is ready to get back into management after four years out and could do so alongside former Bolton favourite Brown, who spent five years as a player at the club and worked as assistant under Sam Allardyce and Colin Todd.
Formerly of West Ham, Curbishley spurned an approach from Wolves following McCarthy's sacking at Molineux in February.
Despite a dismal run of results, the Bolton job still provides the opportunity for any manager to enhance their reputation by aiming for promotion with a talented pool of players.
Another name chairman Phil Gartside may look towards is Darren Ferguson. Currently undergoing testing times at Peterborough United, Ferguson said this week that he "did not like working with" director of football Barry Fry amid speculation that he was ready to leave London Road.
Ferguson might have joined Nottingham Forest this summer and is seen as one of the best managers outside the Premier League, even though his side sit bottom of the Championship.
The verdict on Coyle provides a damning assessment of his reign. Heralded as the next Scottish manager to make a major impact in England while at Burnley, Coyle chose to leave the club for fierce local rivals Bolton in acrimonious circumstances in January 2010.
Former Burnley chairman Barry Kilby labelled Coyle's choice as a "sidewards move" at the time, and so it proved. A cursory glance at the league table will make pleasing reading for Clarets supporters who have never forgiven him for leaving the club with little chance of retaining their Premier League status.
Gartside said: "Owen poured his heart and soul into the job, both on and off the pitch, and he led our club with great dignity during some very challenging times.
"It is the right time for a change. We set a target at the beginning of the season and want to get back on track."
Coyle added: "I have always been driven to act in the best interests of the club and care passionately about it. We have worked very hard for long hours to put a plan in place at the football club for years to come.
"Whoever comes in is going to be a very lucky person to come into a wonderful football club, which has a structure in place that will benefit the club for many years to come."
Even though the club has incurred debts of around £110m, largely owed to owner Eddie Davies, Gartside will favour luring a big name to the club rather than searching the lower divisions. One bright prospect, Karl Robinson, is likely to be overlooked, even though his MK Dons team are fifth in League One and play an attractive brand of football.
Sammy Lee, whose ill-fated time in charge in 2007 lasted only 11 matches, has been appointed caretaker manager alongside academy coach Jimmy Phillips. However, Bolton are hoping to have a new manager in place by the time they face Bristol City at home on October 20.