Howe – by those who know him best

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November 10, 2021
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    Eddie HoweEddie Howe was considered a potential England manager after guiding Bournemouth to the Premier League

    "Make each day your masterpiece," was one of the many inspirational quotes from American college basketball coach John Wooden which at one time adorned the walls of Eddie Howe's office at Bournemouth.

    Wooden completely transformed UCLA's basketball programme in the 1970s, taking them to 10 national championships, including a record seven in a row. His view of success was based on peace of mind in knowing that you have given everything you possibly can.

    New Newcastle manager Howe told Graham Hunter's Big Interview podcast in 2016 that reading one of Wooden's books "transformed my ideas on coaching, management, and life", and his own journey at Bournemouth was defined by his almost crippling dedication to his craft.

    "You ask anyone, Ed's biggest strength is his work ethic," Jason Tindall, Howe's assistant with the Cherries, told 5 Live's Football Daily podcast. "He leaves no stone unturned and works all the hours needed to be successful."

    'He's a deep thinker'

    Howe's drive is primarily focused on his players. The 43-year-old is extremely hands-on on the training ground, as demonstrated in a video produced by Bournemouth from their pre-season camp in La Manga in 2019.

    The Englishman is wearing a microphone and can be heard constantly instructing and cajoling his players as they do their work, and makes a striking intervention during a three-versus-two counter-attacking drill.

    "To come away with one goal in three and a half minutes is poor," Howe tells the squad, before asking for greater movement and urgency.

    Thereafter, the sharpness and intensity goes up. Maybe he has the video editor to thank, but the evidence of taking Bournemouth from the bottom of League Two to the Premier League, and keeping the south coast club there for five seasons, suggests he has plenty of coaching substance.

    His impact on Scotland international Ryan Fraser alone is worthy of note. With the former Aberdeen player struggling to adapt to his new club, Howe came into his house, made him change his diet and coaxed him from a small, scrawny reserve to a menacing and productive Premier League forward.

    "He's a real deep thinker, very meticulous and detailed in his work," says Tommy Elphick, who was made Bournemouth captain by Howe after joining the club in League One.

    "He always has a target and is very good at bringing the dressing room together with one purpose at the heart of everything he does."

    • 'Howe ready to make up for lost time but cannot afford same mistakes'

    An attacking style of play

    Forming a strong bond with, and among, his squad was another of the hallmarks of Howe's time at Bournemouth, particularly on the journey to the Premier League.

    The group was one of no great repute, but united around a common goal, and with astute coaching they became stronger than the sum of their parts.

    Part of that was the constant reminder of just who they were playing for – the fans. Newcastle is a club that requires a manager to tap in to the passion of the supporters, and forge a strong bond between them and the team.

    "He spends a lot of time getting to know his players and the great thing he did at Bournemouth was he really tapped into the history of the club," Elphick adds. "He made us proud to wear the shirt, and got us playing in a way that resonated with the fans."

    That latter part – the playing style – is also key to getting fans onside. Bournemouth stayed in the Premier League not by playing reactive, counter-attacking football, but by getting on the front foot.

    In an interview with the Coaches' Voice,external-link Howe relayed how they managed to beat defending champions Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in January 2018.

    He breaks down his approach, which was to go man-for-man and press Antonio Conte's innovative side high up the pitch. It was an example of a coach willing to take risks.

    "His style is exciting and fast-paced," Elphick explains. "We always went to win the game whether it was against Manchester City in the Premier League or Oldham in League One. When we were in front, we wouldn't stop.

    "There may be teething problems – he will ask the centre-backs to split, midfielders to drop in, and put an onus on goalkeepers to use their feet. But it's not boring to watch. We went with a purpose to attack and score goals."

    Questionable recruitment?

    So, Howe is a hands-on coach with a reputation for playing attacking football, who also cares deeply for his players and is capable of rallying a team. The perfect appointment, it seems.

    As ever, nothing is that straightforward. The criticisms of Howe broadly fall into two categories. The first is that when he stepped outside his Bournemouth comfort zone to take charge of Burnley in 2011, it did not go quite as planned, with the club not managing to challenge for promotion to the Premier League.

    He left after less than two years citing family reasons, having lost his mother six months before his time at Turf Moor came to an end, and having been living apart from his wife and children.

    Some, then, are sceptical that Howe could put up with not only moving further from his family to Newcastle (unless they were to relocate), but also living in a city with such an intense passion for its team.

    Media scrutiny and fans' expectations following the Magpies' Saudi Arabian-backed takeover will be a major step up from Bournemouth.

    Whether Howe can handle it is a question worth posing, but judging it on current evidence seems unfair. Only time will tell.

    The second criticism of Howe centres around recruitment, specifically once Bournemouth were in the Premier League, as their signing of rough diamonds was largely lauded on their route to the top. Under Howe, they spent around £250m during their time in the top flight, with some expensive mistakes.

    Eddie Howe's league record in charge of Bournemouth and Burnley

    Dominic Solanke is now a prolific Championship striker but he cost £19m and returned just three league goals in 42 league appearances before the Cherries' relegation, while the £16m Jordon Ibe also failed to live up to his fee. There were others, too.

    But again it's not as simple as painting his recruitment as poor. Pretty much every club makes signings that do not work out every season, and Bournemouth are far from the only Premier League club to waste millions.

    And there were also success stories. Nathan Ake was signed from Chelsea for £20m and left for Manchester City for double that. Significant profits were made on Tyrone Mings, Aaron Ramsdale and plenty more.

    Increasingly, recruitment in football depends on the overall structure rather than the manager or head coach, so Newcastle's decision on those operations are likely to define the success. Allowing any manager to take charge on that front is a risk. What is not in doubt is they will have significant funds to spend in January.

    Having worked closely with him, Elphick is clear about what he has to offer.

    "He's a very deep thinker, but there's always an aim and a structure," he says. "The fans can look forward to having a group of players they'll really resonate with and know what to expect when they watch their team."

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