At 29, most men look to start their lives. They look to settle down and are happy with their 9-to-5 job. Not for one Eddie Howe though.
The Bournemouth manager was facing a severe crisis in his life back when he turned 29, for he had just learned that his inability to recover from a dislocated kneecap would cause him to hang up his footballing boots forever. News like that would break most footballers, but Howe was made of a different metal. As he has done so many times since he decided to make the most of the gifts he had that he could still use.
So he became a manager for the club he had stayed and plied his trade with for over 11 years. His first few months were spent as a reserve manager-player and his next stint was as an assistant manager with the Cherries. As it is with the likes of former players these days, the idea was to spend as much time in learning the tricks of the trade as possible and then dip his hands into the murky field of management.
However, dire financial constraints and his universal appeal at the club saw Howe take up the role of a caretaker manager in January 2009, with his beloved Bournemouth sitting at the bottom half of League Two and having started their campaign on -17 points. He showed promise in that campaign itself, guiding the Cherries out of the relegation zone and into safety.
His stock began to rise after that season, as he guided Bournemouth to League One and then spent almost two years working with Burnley. He returned to Dean Court in 2013 after the sudden demise of his mother, perhaps seeking the comfort of the place. Under his tutelage, the Cherries romped to the top of the English football pile and are now into their third season as a Premier League club.
Howe’s climb to the top has been meteoric, so much so that he is now seen as one of the most exciting faces in English football and is putting his influence into good use. The Cherries finished 16th, 9th, and 12th in the Premier League over the last 3 campaigns, and are currently 6th in the table with 12 games played, ahead of the likes of Manchester United and Everton.
He also won the Premier League Manager for October ahead of Pep Guardiola, Maurizio Sarri and Chris Hughton, this being the third time that he has done so in his still-novice managerial career.
The most interesting facet about Howe’s brand of football isn’t, however, the style or the results, but it is the mantra. Having taken inspiration from the ideologies of legendary American college basketball coach John Wooden, the 40-year-old has conditioned himself to believe “success is a peace of mind that is achieved through self-satisfaction”.
As such, he as wisely set his targets and developed a brand of football that is pleasing on the eyes and has caused them to consistently punch over their weight, something that has been prominent all the more this season.
In October, the Cherries picked up 10 points from a possible 12 and played with a swagger that was hitherto unthinkable from a team like theirs. At the heart of their form lies the fact that they have successfully adapted to the demands of modern football and have not limited themselves to adopting a mid-table club mentality.
Howe usually prefers a 4-4-1-1 formation but there is no hard and fast rule for it. Cohesion and patient build-up is at the heart of “Howeball”, which means there is an inherent focus on possession and technical superiority. Unlike regular lower-level English clubs, booting the ball forward towards a target-man is not something that one can associate with Bournemouth.
The full-backs regularly join the attack while the deeper lying midfielder sits back and usually protects the defence when the team is in possession. There is also use of the false number nine, a position that has come to great prominence in the game recently and it is a concept that Howe has exploited for the Cherries to an outstanding degree.
The young manager, who has also gone head-to-head with hardened veterans like Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pocchetino and Arsene Wenger during his time in the top flight, is also an excellent coach, something that is reflected in the fact that he still has nine players in the team from his time at the Football Championship.
There is a gulf of class between the Premier League and the lower divisions, but Howe’s players have adapted and level up their game which speaks volumes about his ability to fundamentally improve footballers. He has also invested wisely in procuring new players, with Colombian World Cup star Jefferson Lerma arguably the pick of the lot amongst his summer recruits this year.
The shrewd purchase of promising Welsh starlet David Brooks from Sheffield United, who has drawn a lot of plaudits for his performances this season, also testifies his ability to spot and nurture talent, something that only the best in the world possess. Given the mess that Steve McLaren and Alan Pardew have made of their Premier League careers, it is refreshing to see someone like Howe handle the spotlight so effortlessly, so early in his career.
Having made their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign, Bournemouth look set to challenge for the European spots this summer. Home is where they play their best football, having picked up a total of 88 points so far in their Premier League stay.
As for the man himself, he is still on the right side 40, so he has a long road to go. However, with a dexterous approach to his transfer, continuously honing his philosophies and having an unwavering belief in his abilities, he is set to be a true genius when it comes to his line of work.
He has seen his mentors become his rivals, so it is feasible that he may eventually move to a bigger club in order to really test himself at the highest level, but for now, Dean Court can dare to dream.