When AFC Bournemouth found themselves starting the 2008/09 season with a 17 point deduction at the bottom of League Two, after falling into administration, most fans feared the worst. By New Year’s Eve, Jimmy Quinn had left the managerial seat vacant and Bournemouth looked set to collapse both on and off the pitch. Step in Eddie Howe. At 31 he became the youngest manager in the Football League and the club’s entire future was placed in his hands.
Only hired because he was the cheapest option and Bournemouth were completely broke, Eddie rallied a team that had quite frankly been appalling for the first half of the season and got them playing with the belief that they could win. A 2-1 win over Grimsby on the last day of the season ensured the club’s survival and solidified Eddie’s place as a hero at the club.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 2016/17 season where Eddie’s accolades include winning ‘Football League Manager of the Decade’ and taking the very same club that he pulled back from the brink of existence only 7 years earlier, to the Premier League. Ask any Bournemouth fan and they will tell you of his Godlike status at the club. But just how has Eddie Howe gone from obscurity to one of the most respected managers in the country in only a few years? And what is the ‘Eddie How effect’?
As a player, Eddie was considered an exciting talent, being selected for the England Under 21’s and securing a transfer to Portsmouth. He was as popular among Bournemouth fans as a player as he is as a manager, with Cherries fans funding the £21,000 transfer to bring Eddie back to the club. However, Eddie’s promising playing career was cut short by a series of injuries that forced him to retire in 2007, only 12 years after he had started his professional career. Eddie has spoken openly about how his injuries and early retirement challenged him personally and the disappointment and anger that he felt during that period. Eddie himself has stated that it was only when he got into coaching and then managing that he felt able to become more at peace with his career and the direction that it has gone in.
One of Eddie’s key traits as a manager is his man management. He is undoubtedly one of the most liked and respected managers by his players. It appears that Eddie’s own experiences with injuries and subpar treatment by his former employers have made him very aware of the need to have and maintain strong relationships with his players. Eddie prides himself on being honest and approachable, whilst maintaining an air of authority; it is telling that when Bournemouth players Callum Wilson, Maxi Gradel and Tyrone Mings sustained long term injuries last season, all three commented on Howe’s outstanding support and encouragement throughout their rehabilitation. Eddie also showed gut wrenching support for Harry Arter when his daughter Renee was stillborn in December. Howe has spoken on many occasions about losing his mother and the effect that the loss had on him and it seems that he is able to use his experiences and understanding of this raw emotions to help his players through these difficult situations and support them. Without a doubt, Eddie’s man management skills contribute hugely to his success as a manager. It is rare that a manager has the respect of his players but is also considered a friend and a confidant: it seems reasonable to suggest that this is perhaps Eddie’s greatest skill as a manager and the thing that makes him stand out.
Another key trait that Eddie possesses links closely to his man management skills and is that he is able to get the best out of the players in his team. When Eddie rejoined Bournemouth in 2012, he took the same team from the relegation zone to automatic promotion in only a few months. Players that were underperforming for the first half of the season became contenders for team of the season and looked like completely different players. The improvements didn’t end there however: when Bournemouth were promoted to the Championship, many of the starting 11 from League One remained at the core of the team and they looked like Championship players. After Bournemouth secured promotion to the Premier League, many people questioned whether their squad was strong enough to compete. Whilst Eddie made signings, the same core squad that had risen up the leagues through League One and the Championship made up the majority of the starting eleven. These players took some time to adjust but secured Premier League survival with games to spare. Just how is it that players who were struggling in League One could adapt to the Premier League in such a short space of time?
The answer lies with Eddie Howe. The belief that he instills within his players is clear to see and the team spirit that he promotes is obvious on and off the pitch. Whilst Eddie is by no means a perfect technician and there are elements of his teams that are decidedly weaker than others, he gets his teams playing exciting football. You can see in his players that they enjoy the style of attacking football that Eddie employs. Often when a goal is scored, a large number of the team have been involved in the build up, and it’s obvious that the players know their roles within the team. Many Bournemouth players have commented on the fantastic team spirit at the club and have said that the atmosphere around the club is always positive, looking at how they can improve after every match, no matter what the result. It is the belief that his teams have that they can beat anyone, but the lack of complacency when they do that helps create such a strong work ethic amongst the team.
Eddie’s forays in the transfer market might not be his strongest asset as a manager but it is worth noting some of the signings he has made. His signings of Matt Ritchie, Callum Wilson, Benik Afobe, Andrew Surman and Josh King have been widely regarded as successes and have all helped developed Eddie’s style of attacking play. This season his signing of Lewis Cook has been widely seen as an exciting addition to the Bournemouth squad and is a talent that many people are excited to see Eddie Howe get the best out of.
It’s not just Eddie’s skills on the pitch that have made Eddie stand out however, his down-to-earth personality have made him a hit with the media and fans of other clubs. He’s likeable, always comes across well when he speaks, creates a professional atmosphere around AFC Bournemouth and he has helped turned a club that was a complete mess off the field, into a efficient and organised coaching outfit with a state of the art training facility that Eddie himself helped design. It is clear to see that his effect doesn’t end on the pitch and this is no doubt a part of Bournemouth’s achievements on the pitch.
It’s undeniable that Eddie is a talented manager with a very bright future ahead of him. His achievements so far have led him to receive national accolades and be discussed as a potential candidate for England manager in the future. It seems that Eddie’s effect on a team is down to a combination of key skills rather than just the passion that’s often touted as his strongest characteristic. Some might argue that the Eddie Howe effect works best at Bournemouth and that he didn’t have the same impact at Burnley – others will argue that Burnley benefited hugely from Howe’s influence – but whilst Eddie’s achievements at Bournemouth cannot be denied, it will be interesting to see whether Eddie has the same impact at his next club.
Perhaps Howe and Bournemouth are a perfect combination. But perhaps Eddie’s approachable personality combined with his managerial skills will lead him to being a successful manager at one of the country’s top clubs within the next few years. He may not be England’s new manager, but don’t be surprised if he’s not the next one.