Eddie Howe: The Man Who Has Awoken One of England’s Sleeping Giants
After one of the most long-winded takeovers in Premier League history, Amanda Staveley and the PIF of Saudi Arabia completed their takeover of one of England’s sleeping giants, Newcastle United.
The city was elated, St James’ Park was to become the city’s largest party scene for the next 24 hours and swiftly the rumour mill began to spin. Who would they sign? How much money would they have to spend? When would Steve Bruce depart? And who would be his successor?
The man that Newcastle trusted to lead the new era of Newcastle United turned out to be Eddie Howe, arguably Bournemouth’s finest ever manager and one of England’s brightest coaching prospects.
He has since steered them away from impending relegation, revived the atmosphere of St James’ Park and has instilled hope into a fan base that for so long was hopeless. His journey to one of England’s biggest clubs is one of the most fascinating in football.
Like many top-level managers, Eddie Howe had a reasonable playing career, managing 13 years as a professional until he hung his boots up in 2007. Howe started his professional career at AFC Bournemouth and established himself as a key figure in their defensive line. During his time at Bournemouth, Howe made 200 appearances and was selected for England’s Under-21 team in 1998.
After eight years for the Cherries, he was approached by Portsmouth in 2002 and was signed for £400,000 by Pompey’s manager at the time, Harry Redknapp. Unfortunately, this signing did not live up to expectations.
Shortly after Howe put pen to paper, he suffered a season-ending knee injury which saw him make only two appearances under Redknapp’s management. Howe was passed fit for the first game of the 02/03 season against Nottingham Forest, but only 10 minutes into his return he suffered a relapse, ruling him out again for the entirety of the season.
Howe finished his playing career where he started, making 70 further appearances in the red and black of Bournemouth before he moved into a coaching role within the reserve side. It was here where Howe’s potential as a coach began to flourish.
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He was appointed Caretaker Manager of the club in 2008 after Jimmy Quinn’s 121-day reign came to an abrupt end and was subsequently announced as the permanent manager in 2009. This would turn out to be the best managerial appointment in Bournemouth’s history, as Howe began to showcase his ability.
Despite facing a 17-point deficit to safety, Howe managed to bring Bournemouth away from the relegation zone by the end of the season and secured their place in the Football League. Howe had an almost perfect start to the 09/10 season with Bournemouth, winning eight out of his first nine games – a new club record at the time.
Just three and a half months into the new campaign, rumours were circulating that Howe was linked with the vacant Peterborough United job. Peterborough approached Howe, but he rejected the offer to manage a side two leagues above his own.
He continued with his duties at Bournemouth and had a strong campaign from August to May. After Bournemouth had spent two years in the fourth tier, he secured them promotion to League 1. Goals from Alan Connell and Bret Pitman saw the Cherries promoted in late April, after a 2-0 win at Burton.
Howe had arguably walked into one of the toughest possible scenarios, and despite him only being in the infancy of his managerial career he was able to turn around a side devoid of tactical direction and confidence under the backdrop of impending administration.
Bournemouth’s decision to leave Administration without a Company Voluntary Agreement had cost them a total of 17 points, yet his energy and enthusiasm from the touchline lifted a club on the brink of its survival.
His work did not go unnoticed. Five months into the 2010/11 season, in the first season of League 1 for both him and the club, Howe was approached by Championship side Burnley and in January 2011 it was announced that he would make his first major move in management, singing a three-and-a-half year contract with the club.
Howe’s tenure at Burnley was solid. He took over at Turf Moor with only 4 months of the season remaining, leading them to an 8th place finish. But the following season Howe left the club, citing “personal reasons” before re-joining Bournemouth soon after.
He was tasked with climbing the League 1 table, with a 34-man squad worth a collective £3,910,000. By January 2013, Bournemouth were sitting in 7th and the competitive nature of League 1 meant that they were just eight points off leaders, Tranmere. But after a storming run of games after the turn of the year, they were to finish in an automatic promotion spot and secure their place in the Championship.
It only took Howe two full seasons in the Championship to clinch promotion to the Premier League. The Cherries finished 10th in the 14/15 season and just a season later won the league title on the final day, after a 3-0 win away at Charlton.
In the process, he signed many players who would go on to prove themselves in the Premier League, at a very small cost. Callum Wilson was signed for £3.3 million from Coventry, Ryan Fraser £432,000 from Aberdeen, Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United for £846,000, and Josh King joined on a free from Blackburn.
Howe and his close advisor Richard Thomas demonstrated real skill in manoeuvring in the transfer market on a very limited budget. His first season in the Premier League was strong enough to keep his newly promoted side safe, as the Cherries finished 16th, with some notable wins against West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester United.
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The 16/17 season saw Howe set another club record, as Bournemouth finished in 9th place. During this season, Howe was praised by pundits and analysts for his possession-based, front-foot style of play. Bournemouth usually played with a 4-4-2, with emphasis on the double-pivot in midfield to dominate possession.
But during match-ups against the “Big Six”, Howe demonstrated his tactical flexibility by employing a back-three. With Adam Smith and Charlie Daniels playing as defensive wing-backs to protect the centre-backs against the dangers of opposing attacking lines.
The next two seasons saw Howe keep Bournemouth in the Premier League, finishing 12th and 14th. Howe hadn’t just kept Bournemouth safe from the drop for four seasons running, he had implemented a style of play that challenged and sometimes outclassed the biggest names in English football;
– 5th December 2015 – Chelsea 0 – 1 Bournemouth
– 12th December 2015 – Bournemouth 2 – 1 Manchester United
– 4th December 2016 – Bournemouth 4 – 3 Liverpool
– 11th March 2017 – Bournemouth 3 – 2 West Ham United
– 14th January 2018 – Bournemouth 2 – 1 Arsenal
– 31st January 2018 – Chelsea 0 – 3 Bournemouth
– 30th January 2019 – Bournemouth 4 – 0 Chelsea
In his Coaches’ Voice Masterclass, Howe explained how he was able to lead his Bournemouth side to such a famous away victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He said that he employed a back-three, to match the unorthodox style of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea to limit the chances created through the central areas when defending in transition.
This worked a treat, and the Premier League was gifted with one of the most complete tactical performances throughout the whole season. However, by the end of the 19/20 season Howe had experienced relegation for the first time. Bournemouth went down by one point and were to play Championship football.
In nine seasons at Bournemouth, Howe had saved the club from an almost guaranteed relegation at the bottom of the English footballing pyramid, rapidly gained promotion from League 2 to the Premier League on a limited budget and kept Bournemouth in the Premier League for 4 consecutive seasons with an average finishing position of 13th.
This was where Howe’s time as Bournemouth manager came to an end, but he left a club legend, and it was certain that a new challenge would be on the horizon.
Once Amanda Staveley and the PIF of Saudi Arabia had completed their takeover of Newcastle United, a search had begun to find a manager to take the club forward. A month after the takeover was complete, Eddie Howe was appointed as The Magpies’ manager.
Howe’s CV was glowing, and he seemed the right choice by the Newcastle board, beating the likes of Unai Emery, Roberto Martinez, Paulo Fonseca and Steven Gerrard to the role.
He was appointed on the 8th of November 2021, and up to this point in the season Newcastle had not won a single fixture. They had played 11 games, gaining five points and were sitting in 19th place. Giving a worthy manager financial backing seemed to be the formula, and it was time for Howe to work his magic once again.
It took Howe only 4 games to get Newcastle their first win of the season – a 1-0 win against Burnley in early December. By the start of the new year, Newcastle were still in 19th, but just two points from safety.
He immediately improved the defensive structure of Newcastle, they looked like an organised unit, but he also placed greater emphasis on a fluid-counter attacking system that leaned on the strengths of creative talisman Allan Saint-Maximin. This made for a welcome change from Steve Bruce’s directionless build-up that simply relied on Callum Wilson’s deadly instincts around the box.
Howe recognised that the squad needed immediate strengthening and got straight to work in the January transfer market, and it was announced that England international, Kieran Trippier was his first signing.
The right-back had previously worked with Howe at Burnley, so Howe knew what he would be getting out of the deal. Six days later, another signing for the Magpies – Burnley striker, Chris Wood. Wood’s goals-to-game ratio was impressive at his time at Leeds United and was all the more impressive at Burnley (49 in 144), as they rank 32nd out of 50 in club goals in Premier League history.
Bruno Guimarães was the next announcement out of Tyneside – a Brazilian central midfielder with a fee of around £40 million. Howe then brought in two defenders on the 31st of January to bolster Newcastle’s backline – Dan Burn and Matt Targett. Burn was a permanent transfer worth £14m, and Matt Targett was brought in on loan.
Over the next two months of Premier League football, Newcastle looked a completely different outfit under Howe. The Magpies went eight games unbeaten, and their league position looked healthier with each passing game week.
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Howe’s first signing Kieran Trippier scored Newcastle’s third to settle the tie against Everton, and smashed home the winning freekick in a 1-0 victory against Aston Villa. This run finished with a 2-1 win away at Southampton, where Guimarães and Wood were the goal scorers.
By March 10th, Newcastle had jumped five spots into 14th, ten points off the relegation zone. Howe again showed his tactical nous, by putting spluttering striker Joelinton into a midfield role, using his clear physical strength and relentless energy to partner Guimarães in the pivot role.
This was a stroke of genius, Joelinton looked a player possessed and it speaks volumes to Howe’s ability to develop players he has within his squad. The “run-in” to the Premier League’s conclusion showcased just what Eddie Howe is capable of in a management role.
When Howe oversees transfers, style of play and financial resources, fruitful results seem to be the outcome. Howe nearly had another unbeaten month in April, four wins out of six:
– 1-0 win against 8th place Wolves – Chris Wood the goal scorer
– 2-1 win against 9th place Leicester – Bruno Guimarães with a brace
– 1-0 win against Crystal Palace – Bruno Guimarães with an assist
– 3-0 win against Norwich – Bruno Guimarães with a goal
Howe’s new attackers earning their money in front of goal, but also his defensive singings at the other end. Six games played and only three goals conceded with Burn, Trippier and Targett all involved in these fixtures.
By May, Howe had Newcastle sitting in the top half of the Premier League, 11 points off the drop. After a 2-0 win against Arsenal, where Joelinton and Guimarães’ tenacity in midfield suffocated the Londoners, Newcastle killed off the Gunners’ chances of Champions League football and a 2-1 victory over Burnley on the final day, Newcastle were to finish in 11th position.
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The recognised objective of Howe’s job by Premier League fans was to keep Newcastle safe from relegation. He had massively overachieved at his time at Bournemouth and had done the same by the end of the 21/22 season with the Magpies.
Eddie Howe has proven that when he is at the forefront of a club’s operations, he can achieve unthinkable success. With him working alongside Dan Ashworth, Newcastle will be an enthralling watch both on and off the pitch throughout the 22/23 season and could even try their luck for European football next year. Howe has officially awoken one of English football’s sleeping giants.
By: Ben Watkins / @90PlusFour
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto