Mark Fleming: Eddie Howe need feel no shame after making Bournemouth exit
The Football league Column: When the dust settles, few will truly begrudge Howe his chance
Monday 17 January 2011
There is no easy way when an ambitious manager leaves one club for another and, on the face of it, Eddie Howe's exit from Bournemouth was a textbook example of how not to do it.
On Tuesday afternoon, he turned down chances to take over at both Charlton Athletic and Crystal Palace, telling hundreds of cheering supporters outside Bournemouth's Dean Court stadium: "It would be very difficult to leave these players and the fantastic supporters. I'm delighted [to stay]. There's a good feeling in the town – it's a joy to be around."
Three days later, he was driving north to take up a lucrative new job at Burnley – worth a reported £400,000 a year, with a healthy bonus if the club get promoted to the Premier League – as replacement for Brian Laws.
However, it would be wholly inaccurate to paint the youthful Howe as a turncoat, or even worse, a traitor. Howe, 33, stayed on at Bournemouth to take charge of Friday night's televised League One game at Colchester United, which they lost 2-1. On a remarkably emotional night, Howe was wiping tears from his eyes as he left the pitch, following a last huddle with his players and a farewell wave to the visiting supporters.
He leaves Bournemouth totally unrecognisable from the side he inherited two years and two weeks ago. They are 43 places higher in the league, contemplating possible promotion to the Championship instead of relegation to the Conference. They are fourth in League One, despite having just come up and having sold their most promising young players, Brett Pitman and Josh McQuoid, in the summer. They will also receive about £500,000 in compensation from Burnley.
It was always going to be hard for Howe to leave Bournemouth, but his extraordinary success on meagre resources made it inevitable. The timing of his departure, just three days after he was paraded in front of supporters, was unfortunate and some Bournemouth fans expressed their anger in various media over the weekend.
But when the dust settles, few will truly begrudge Howe his chance at Burnley. He is moving out of his comfort zone on the south coast – his only home as player and manager – to go to a historic club with a genuine chance of returning to the Premier League.
They have a strong squad, can bank on £48m of parachute payments over four years and boast the precedent of giving another young manager, Owen Coyle, the time and resources to realise his potential.
It has been a fast rise for Howe but, in a results-driven business, he has delivered without spending any money. In addition, he has cultivated an extraordinary team spirit at Bournemouth, illustrated by their collective dash to celebrate their goal at Colchester on Friday night with their manager. Howe's Bournemouth also played some attractive football.
Had he been driven purely by ambition, Howe would have left Bournemouth before, when he was offered better-paid jobs at Peterborough United and Southampton.
Sooner or later, however, he had to move on. Howe said: "I just felt it was too good to turn down. It would have been five clubs I turned down to stay at Bournemouth. People might see that as a lack of ambition or drive. I certainly don't lack those things. I have been loyal to Bournemouth. It was extremely difficult to leave a club that is close to my heart. I am proud to have been their manager, and I leave with real sadness."
Howe's sadness at doing so only does him credit. He and his assistant, Jason Tindall, have no time for sentiment. Howe will have to adapt fast to a new club, a new division and a new part of the country, but many good judges expect him to follow other former Bournemouth managers Harry Redknapp and Tony Pulis into the Premier League, sooner rather than later.
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