There was a hint of surprise when Eddie Howe was named the LMA Manager of the Year last May. Not because Howe had not done a terrific job, but it tends to be a top flight manager to pick up the accolade. Many were touting Jose Mourinho for the award after the Portuguese boss led Chelsea to a Capital One Cup and Premier League double. Alan Pardew’s fine work of turning around Crystal Palace’s season and Ronald Koeman’s work at Southampton were also names that had been suggested in the media. But it was Bournemouth’s young manager and former player that led the Cherries to a Championship trophy and Premier League promotion that picked up the same award that the likes of Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have done in years gone by.
Eddie Howe’s and Bournemouth’s relationship is a heart-warming one and one that many young footballers and football fans would dream of. Howe started his professional career at Bournemouth in the mid 1990’s and went on to make more than 250 appearances for the Cherries over three separate spells for the club. He then had some coaching roles with the club’s youth squads before being appointed as first team manager in January 2009. Howe worked wonders with Bournemouth, saving them from relegation despite a 17 point deficit. Howe led the club to promotion to League One before being appointed Burnley manager at the beginning of 2011. His tenure at Turf Moor lasted almost two years and he then returned to Dean Court in October 2012 as manager of Bournemouth. He picked up where he left off and by April 2013, the Cherries had achieved promotion to the Championship. Two years later and his achievement of getting Bournemouth promoted to the Premier League is one of English football’s best stories in recent years. But just how well is last year’s LMA Manager of the Year doing this year?
You only have to go back to October of last year when Howe signed a contract extension with the club to see that he’s doing a fantastic job. It was refreshing to see a newly promoted club have faith, patience and confidence in their manager and offer him a new contract. Too often managers of newly promoted clubs and teams struggling to fight off relegation get shown the door in our top flight. But Bournemouth fans can be happy knowing that whatever happens beyond the end of the season, one of the country’s most talented young managers is committed to the club and the club are committed to him.
Bournemouth currently sit in 16th place and you have to wonder where they’d be if they had their full strength side available. Howe and Bournemouth were ridiculously unfortunate to lose then-record signing Tyrone Mings, one of their marquee signings Max Gradel and young, talented goal scorer Callum Wilson to serious injuries so early on in the campaign. As well as that, their captain Tommy Elphick, who has been a key figure in their recent rise, has also missed the majority of the season so far. It would be quite easy for Howe to place blame for any shortcomings on the injuries to players who undoubtedly would have been key figures for them this season. However, Howe’s mentality has been mirrored in his side’s playing style – positive. Howe has stuck with the brand of football that has seen the Cherries rise from brink of the footballing abyss to the country’s top flight. Their commitment to their attacking style of football has been another refreshing element of Bournemouth’s debut Premier League season.
Howe’s side have picked up some impressive results over the course of the season so far. Their back-to-back victories against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and at home to Manchester United spring to mind. Howe claimed that the club has never and probably will never have a week as great as that one and he’s not wrong. The Cherries didn’t steal two undeserved wins. They thoroughly deserved both victories. They struck a fine balance between attack and defence in both games, and to a man, they were excellent. From the experienced Artur Boruc in goal through to Josh King up front, Howe’s side showed how powerful the spirit and passion of the underdog can be against the big money players of the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United.
If Howe can keep Bournemouth up then you wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a contender again for the LMA Manager of the Year at the end of this season, although you’d think it’d be a tough ask to beat Claudio Ranieri after his great work at Leicester this season. Howe has adapted effortlessly to the Premier League. His side don’t look out of place in the Premier League and have made the step up along with Howe. The recent rise of Bournemouth is a fantastic story and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon. The club are showing their ambition of staying in the league and pushing on with their recent transfer business. Highly rated young Argentine Juan Iturbe has swapped Roma for Bournemouth on loan until the end of the season with the potential of a permanent deal in the summer. Bournemouth also look poised to smash their transfer record again this season with the reported £10m transfer of Benik Afobe believed to be imminent.
The club are showing their ambition to stay in the country’s top flight and consolidate their position for years to come with a young manager with an infectious passion for the club, an attractive brand of football and some seemingly shrewd transfers. And you’d have to argue, as long as they can keep hold of Howe, their ambitions can certainly become a reality.
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