Modern football is at a stage where the money-grabbing bosses of English football clubs jump on the bandwagon to sack their latest manager the moment things start to take a downturn on or off the pitch. But one 32-year-old has established himself as one of the exciting young managers in the game after an incredible start to management that saw him take cash-strapped AFC Bournemouth from the brink of relegation from the football league and financial implosion to the promotion places of League One in the space of two and a half years. And that man is Eddie Howe.
Howe arrived on the managerial scene in January 2008, when Bournemouth were ten points adrift from safety in League Two and under the restraints of a transfer embargo, after the club fell into administration.
It seemed that it was a matter of time until the Cherries suffered relegation to the Blue Square Premier and the grim reality of further financial setbacks and not knowing where the next pay cheque is going to come from. But Howe, who spent the majority of his playing career at Bournemouth before injury problems forced him to hang up his boots in 2007, turned it around and won 12 out of the final 20 league matches to secure survival.
Veteran striker Steve Fletcher sealed the survival, a man who’s six years older than his boss, on a memorable penultimate day of the 2008/09 season against Grimbsy – the day that Howe described as the best of his managerial career.
“That really stands out for me, staying up in League Two when it looked like it was at one stage going to be beyond us. It was so important that we remained in the league. If the club had dropped into the Conference I don’t know if the club would still be here.
Howe went on to take Bournemouth to League Two promotion in the very next season, with a transfer embargo still slapped on the club and an injury-crisis that meant the Cherries manager couldn’t field a full subs bench for the majority of the campaign. That season also saw assistant manager Jason Tindall come out of retirement in the club’s hour of need, as well as the instrumental role of midfielder Danny Hollands – who was rushed back to fitness following knee surgery that summer.
And Howe, a modest but incredibly determined character off the pitch, admitted that his magnificent start to football management exceeded his expectations.
“It was quite a turnaround. In taking the job the only focus was trying to stay in the league, the success last season was a little bit unexpected but certainly welcome and we’ve carried it on this season and started pretty well,” he added. “It’s been a really good and enjoyable ride. There’s been some ups and downs on the way, but that’s football management for you.”
That ‘pretty’ good start to this season has seen Bournemouth defy the critics yet again – losing just once at home so far and rising to as high as second in League One. The Cherries are seventh in table, two points off the automatic promotion places, and unsurprisingly Howe has earned glowing praise from the media and rival clubs alike.
The long-awaited alleviation of the embargo, which finally allowed Howe to sign players permanently as of March this year, saw him bring in the likes of former Hereford winger Marc Pugh and Michael Symes from Accrington Stanley – and they have shone under Howe’s management. The club has even coped with the loss of talismanic striker Brett Pitman, who scored 26 goals last season, to Championship outfit Bristol City. And an impressive 45 victories in an 89-match managerial career has got people begging the question of just how far Howe can go.
Over the last 12 months, Howe has rejected the approach of Peterborough, while they were in the Championship, and wealthy League One rivals Southampton. And assistant Tindall was full of praise for the boss.
Tindall said: “He’s an excellent manager. The attention to detail is first class, his preparation is first class and he lives, sleeps and breathes football. He will get even better with more experience under his belt, but I think his record speaks for itself and I don’t think there’s another person that could have stepped into the football club at the time that he did and achieved what he has done so far.”
That situation is one that would even have had Sir Alex Ferguson chewing his gum more furiously than ever. And considering he is nearly 40 years younger than the Manchester United manager, it is surely a matter of time until Eddie Howe makes a step into the big time.