An ode to Eddie Howe, Bournemouth’s very own anti-Warnock

Matt Stead

This week, Johnny’s positive look at our managers and how they perform on TV and radio goes down to the south coast to look at a man who always gets talked about for never getting talked about as a candidate for a big job. That’ll be Eddie Howe, then.


Who Are Ya?
Edward John Frank Howe is 41 but looks about 20, with eyes as blue as a robin’s eggs. Born in Amersham in Buckinghamshire, one of those nice home counties towns that everyone has heard of but almost no-one has ever been to. Moved to Verwood in Dorset when young, which accounts for the ever so slight burr to his voice.

Spent his career at Bournemouth as a central defender, making a couple of England Under 21s appearances in 1998. Transferred to Portsmouth but a couple of severe knackings put him out of action for two seasons and he ended up only playing twice for them. Went back to the Cherries for three years before injury forced him to quit aged just 30. He stayed to become a coach and took up the managerial reins in 2008 after Jimmy Quinn got the old tin tack.

Across a total of nine years over two spells, with a year out at Burnley, he took Bournemouth from the bottom division to the Premier League, often on relatively meagre resources. This has earned him huge kudos. The fact that he’s kept his side in the top flight since 2015 puts him in the window for potential suitors from bigger clubs, as English football’s most eligible bachelor.

Quite possibly the least demonstrative manager in the league. In interviews he’s modest and quiet, almost to a fault. The sort of manager who, if he was from abroad, some pundits would question if he had passion for the game because he doesn’t jump up and down and scream a lot, which, as we know, is the only way to show how much you care. Or at least it is to some of the less cerebral types.

Being in the Premier League has bestowed riches upon the club that were unthinkable until recently and while they’re still routinely depicted as paupers in a land of financial giants, they can now afford to spend £25m on Jefferson Lerma and £19m on Dominic Solanke. But the feeling is that he’s better at training players up like Callum Wilson, who has been under his tutelage for four years, rather than buying big players. Maybe doubts over his ability in the transfer market have put bigger clubs off him? I’ve even heard it said that he’s just not a large and colourful enough character for a big club. If true that reflects badly on others and is Bournemouth’s gain.


Cunning Linguist?
Very erudite and thoughtful. A plain speaker without any strong accent, he does so in a calm, measured sort of way. Not one for umming and aaahing. Not an ounce of rudeness or the bullish tin ear. Conducts press conferences as if they are a PTA meeting, the sports teacher finding polite ways to say little Johnny is useless at every sport to the weary parents.

Quite clearly a football obsessive. He gets into work at 6.30am. Self-describes as a placid guy and that’s not hard to believe. Seems to be one for ‘inspirational’ slogans such as these on a board in his office. ‘Little Things Makes Big Things Happen’, ‘Call Yourself A Teacher’ (which could be taken two ways) and ‘Love Is The Most Powerful Four Letter Word,’ which I think features on a Clintons card alongside a small boy with huge eyes and a floppy hat. Aw.

Despite being very much king of his castle at Bournemouth, he seems to lack the sort of big ego that often comes with that kind of success and position. In a TV interview, when showing Gary Lineker around his office and various analysis rooms at the Vitality Stadium, he looked for all the world like a games teacher showing a visitor around the new sports hall, changing facilities and offices. This is quite remarkable considering the stage he’s working on and it speaks of a man who is happy to be humble and has no need nor desire to be anything else.


Media Hit or Miss?
Everybody loves Eddie. His story is such a feel-good one of hard work and success against the odds that he rarely attracts any opprobrium at all.

Is very much one of those English managers about whom it is always said “why isn’t his name even mentioned?” in relation to top jobs, even though those who ask this question are always mentioning his name in relation to top jobs. Indeed, no-one gets talked about more in the English media when a big job comes up.

I’ve never really understood this thing about nationality. Why do some want an English manager to get a big job? What difference does it make to them or to anything? I mean, it doesn’t matter what nationality the next Manchester United manager is, does it? It’s not like it’s an honour that will be bestowed on the chosen nation as a whole. It’s just a bloke from somewhere doing a job. Mystifying. And it has a negative impact on the likes of Eddie too as it feels as though the manager punted in this way needs puffing up in the media because their merits are not obvious enough.


Proper Football Man Rating: 0%
The boys will always go into bat for an English manager no matter what, because they are Proper Football Men and that’s what they do; it’s in the rule book along with never having heard of managers from anywhere else and getting confused then annoyed whilst talking.

But Eddie isn’t a moaner and the boys like a moaner as long as they’re moaning about a lack of money, changes in rules and being oppressed by clubs’ desire to ‘go foreign’.

When he said “I’m in favour of the best person, regardless of nationality,” it made every PFM heart sink. Oh Eddie, how could you let us all down, son?

Eddie is just too articulate for the PFM. He constructs meaningful sentences. He doesn’t keep repeating himself, nor does he invent words through mispronunciation, or punctuate every other sentence with ‘knoworrameanlike’. He even knows the nationality of fellow managers, whereas your PFM wouldn’t deign to do that sort of research before turning up in a TV studio and taking payment for his wisdom.

Also, he’s hardly an alpha male and looks more like someone who organises badminton classes at the local YMCA. The boys are not happy about that. In fact, Eddie seems more like the pretty boy who got the girls at school, the boy that the PFM bullied. So he loses a lot of points for that.

Eddie admits to enjoying his home life with wife and two sons, an idea which fills the boys with horror as it would mean less time playing golf and standing around jingling their car keys in their pocket at the golf club bar while laughing too loudly.

Also he’s got a slogan on his office wall which says ‘the carrot is mightier than the stick’ and all PFMs know that’s why the games gone. Use the carrot as a stick, Eddie – a massive hard carrot – and starting beating players with it, especially the foreigns. They don’t like it up ’em you know.

All in all Eddie isn’t registering a tremor on the PFM richter scale at all and seems very pleased that’s the case.


What The People Say
I knew when I picked Eddie for this week’s piece that I’d not get an avalanche of contributions. This is, I suspect, for two reasons: He’s manager of a smallish club without loads of fans; and for all he has been in the job for a long time and most know his name, the way he goes about his business means he rarely makes waves or catches the neutral’s attention. He slides off the public general consciousness. I’d wager most know who he is, but know nothing else about him. You can’t take against him. Whereas when I did Neil Warnock’s piece, everyone had a viewpoint. Eddie is, in some ways, the anti-Warnock.

‘Had a long wait for Eddie on the day they were crowned Championship champions at The Valley. The interview finally happened in a small room with a door which slammed shut incredibly loudly if unattended. During one of his answers, someone left the room and the door about to slam. Eddie nimbly stuck out a hand, held the door ajar, carried on with his answer only to let it close during my next question, knowing full well which bit would actually be used on the radio!” – Jonathan Overend, 5 Live.

‘There is something very admirable about his refusal to play the celebrity game. The Premier League manager least likely to appear on reality television.’

‘Seems too nice but has that steely resolve. Massive head. And hated by the PFM brigade, not to be seen drinking Pernod and diesel oil.’

‘I like him, and enjoy how his particular style of clothing – and sponsor logo placement on said clothing – makes him look like a motorsport driver.’

‘Quite good at making as little fuss as possible, to the point where a club as small as Bournemouth being in the Premier League for several years seems normal. Everyone seems to agree he will replace Mauricio Pochettino when he leaves Tottenham which seems fair.’

‘Looks like an Enid Blyton’s child character 30 years later. Good manager.’

‘Comes across really well in Living on the Volcano by Michael Calvin.’

‘The most mum-friendly manager in the Premier League. Admirable the way he has seemingly wedded his professional ambition to his club’s success. A fine example of how a settled family life can benefit your work life.’

‘I think he comes across well and rarely blames refs. He is honest when they have played poorly.. he is a great fan of “there are positives to take” which, as a supporter, is frustrating when we are 10 losses out of 13 at the moment.’

‘Eddie manages to play entertaining football, getting the best out of the talent he has and playing to their strengths, while looking like a replacement tennis coach!’


How Long Has He Got?
Can probably stay at the Vitality for as long as he wants, as he’s earned his legend status. But at 41 and with at least 25 years ahead of him, that seems unlikely. At some point, he’d only be human if he wanted to see if he could do it on a different stage, with a different club. Is he open to working in Germany or Spain, I wonder? You’d hope so. There was talk of him taking over at Spurs should their current manager jump ship and that would seem to be a very good fit for him. It’s easy to imagine him there.

Says he’s ambitious for the club, but doesn’t give the impression that getting to ‘the top’ is the most important thing to him personally. If that’s true, then in a business full of self-regard, greed and bloated egos, that is much to be welcomed and respected.

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