Chairman’s sympathetic offer

Ashton Town chairman Mark Hayes
Ashton Town chairman Mark Hayes

A sympathetic Wigan football chairman has reached out to fans of a riva club after a controversial managerial appointment.

Ashton Town chief Mark Hayes is offering free season tickets to Blackburn Rovers supporters who are so disgruntled with their new boss Owen Coyle that they set up an online petition.

As well as his role as chairman at the Edge Green Street club, Mark is also a big Wigan Athletic fan and says the few months he watched under the Scot were so painful that he has empathy for Latics’ Lancashire rivals.

Coyle was sacked after just 23 games at the DW Stadium where he endured a poor start to the season, winning just seven games when his side should have been pushing for promotion.

After his dismissal, he moved across the Atlantic to Houston Dynamo but parted company with the Texan outfit last month with them lying rock bottom of the MLS Eastern conference.

The 49-year-old’s unveiling at Blackburn last week was met with fan fury – his spell at Bolton before Wigan also ended in him being sacked – so Mark decided to step in.

Owen Coyle during his time as Wigan Athletic manager

Owen Coyle during his time as Wigan Athletic manager

“As a football fan and not just as a chairman I sympathise with the frustrations of the Rovers fans,” he said.

“When we played in Europe, one of the biggest downsides was Owen Coyle. His football wasn’t the greatest and for him to be bottom in the MLS and to still get the Blackburn job shows their ambition.”

That was a sentiment that Rovers fans agreed with; many saying they wouldn’t attend under his stewardship.

A petition, which gained hundreds of signatures on its first day of going online, stated: “Owen Coyle has done NOTHING to even warrant an interview for the well paid and respected job of Blackburn Rovers manager. Please remove him from his position as soon as possible to prevent further damage to this historic club.”

As a football fan and not just as a chairman I sympathise with the frustrations of the Rovers fans

Ashton Town chairman Mark Hayes

Mark was one of the first to react, offering Rovers fans the chance to go and watch Ashton Town in the North West Counties First Division.

He put a post out on the club Facebook page, stating: “I would like to offer every Blackburn Rovers fan a FREE Ashton Town season ticket for 2016/17, in addition, on your first visit I will also get you a beer to help the cause.”

Talking of the gesture, Mark added: “It was something I didn’t think many would take up on to be honest but I’ve already got my first orders from Blackburn fans.

“I really do hope many more take us up on the offer. We are a friendly club and would welcome them with open arms.

“Non-league is the place to be, the football is getting a lot better. People are looking for other options and you feel closer to the players and the club at this level.

“We held the Latics legends game here last month for Joseph’s Goal with nearly 1,500 people on, and it was just fantastic.

“Each Saturday we’re only used to getting 50 people on so just another 10-20 Blackburn supporters would be a huge boost for a club like us.”

Mark’s offer is open until the end of July with admission to friendlies also included.