Being a manager in the Football League is never an easy task, but few young managers will experience the difficulty that Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has faced off the pitch and the short-term success experienced on it.
Howe, a product of the Bournemouth youth system, spent the majority of his playing days at the club, and when forced to retire through injury in 2007, the defender was already a player-coach under former manager Kevin Bond.
Having lost his job, alongside Bond, Howe was brought back to the club as assistand manager by newly-appointed Jimmy Quinn, as Assistant Manager.
In the 2007/2008 season, the Cherries were plunged into administration, and as a result of a ten-point deduction were relegated to the Football League’s bottom tier. Since then it has been problem after problem, but now under Howe’s stewardship there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel.
The 2008/2009 season started with a 17-point deduction from the Football League, with the club’s league status under severe threat, as well as its very existence. A frustrating summer followed, as several takeover bids to save the club collapsed.
The experienced Kevin Bond was unable to turn round Bournemouth’s fortunes on the pitch and was relieved of his job in September 2008. Quinn was appointed caretaker-manager and brought fans’ favourite Howe back to the club. Quinn, like Bond failed to move the Cherries away from the relegation zone, and suffered the same fate as his predecessor.
The boardroom looked now for inspiration. Howe was given the job of caretaker-manager and despite losing his first two games, was appointed as full-time manager on 19 January 2009. This was to be the club’s third manager of the season, not usually a recipe for success.
Bournemouth had an 86-year tradition as a Football League club to maintain, and Howe’s divine intervention made sure that this was still intact at the end of the season.
By March, the youngest manager in the League had seen his side lose only two of their previous eleven matches and find themselves two points above the relegation places with 10 games remaining. Bournemouth survived, finishing nine points above relegated Chester City and Luton Town, who would go on to have serious financial woes themselves.
This, however, is not the full story.
15 months later, while the club is still in financial difficulty and a transfer embargo has prevented Howe from reinforcing the squad, the Cherries find themselves in third place.
Centre to this revival is striker Brett Pitman who, while often considered a figure of frustration in past seasons, is now showing his full potential. This season he has already netted 23 league goals, compared to his total of 14 last season. The young striker collected also the Player of the Month Award for September. Despite his age 37-year old Steve Fletcher is still around chipping in goals. Howe’s side can also boast having the second most clean sheets in League 2 (17), behind big spenders and current table toppers Notts County.
Such a contrast in fortunes goes to show that money does not always buy success and that having the right men in charge can provide success on the pitch.
Bournemouth can boast a more impressive range of statistics which make for good reading. Howe and his staff have only used 27 players in the league this season, the third smallest total in League 2, compared to Darlington, the league’s bottom club, who have used 55 players.
Howe’s success is not going unnoticed. In November last year Darren Ferguson was strangely dismissed as manager of Peterborough despite two successive promotions. Barry Fry came for Howe, only to be knocked back.
Despite the young manager’s obvious commitments to his home-town club the question remains Howe long (excuse the pun) Bournemouth can hold onto their man at the top.
Written By Carl Noyce