Stand up and be counted Eddie, there should be more like you
2011 has, until now, been the year of the managerial departure. Dillon, Stimson, Simpson, Parkinson, Hodgson, Keane, Hutchings, Burley, and Johnson, all within the first ten days.
There has been a sense within the media that managers have been treated badly by clubs, but this is an obvious and easy view to opine. Realistically, many of these managers have performed below expectation. However, it is clear that loyalty and patience are seldom lessons taught at the school of football ownership.
And yet there is a converse aspect to this idea of loyalty. When Roy Hodgson joined Liverpool in the summer, he left Fulham behind. This was a club that had appointed Woy from reasonable obscurity, after a lengthy career in management had begun to stagnate. Hodgson claimed that he had taken Fulham as far as he could, and therefore needed to challenge himself on the biggest stage. So how can a manager moan that he isn’t given enough time, just six months after he left a club because the grass looked greener on the other side? Loyalty, it seems, is oft missing from both sides of the spectrum.
Yesterday it looked as if we would have another departure, another manager prepared to push on to a higher plane, another man and club rolling the Manager’s Wheel of Fortune assisted by some ditzy blond and John Leslie. Crystal Palace and Charlton were reportedly in talks with Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, and it was simply a case of him choosing his preferred option.
And then something unusual happened. Loyalty reared its beautiful head like a rarely blooming flower, and Howe remains as boss of Bournemouth.
This story would be memorable even without its ending. Howe, forced to retire with a knee injury in December 2006 aged just 29, was appointed Bournemouth manager aged just 31, after a spell as caretaker manager during which he lost both games. Bournemouth fan had become Bournemouth player, Bournemouth coach, Bournemouth Reserve Team manager, Bournemouth Caretaker manager, Bournemouth manager.
Upon his appointment in January 2009, Bournemouth were second bottom of the Football League, sat on seven points after a seventeen point deduction for falling into administration. Relegation to the Blue Square Premier would potentially spell financial meltdown. Losing just six of his 21 games in charge, Howe guided Bournemouth to 21st in League 2, surviving relegation by 9 points.
The following season, despite a transfer embargo that made the signing of players an impossibility, Howe again achieved the seemingly unachievable, and Bournemouth were promoted in April. His side scored just 61 goals in 46 games, and yet achieved automatic promotion by ten points.
As if to make it all sound frankly silly, Howe is this season at it again. Despite losing both of his first-choice strikers, Brett Pitman and Josh McQuoid, Bournemouth currently sit second in League One. If Howe managed to secure back-to-back promotions then he would become the club’s most successful manager, surpassing Harry Redknapp.
Howe yesterday admitted that he came close to leaving Bournemouth, but that the players and the fans were his reason for staying. Whilst this is the ceremonial guff always spouted by managers, it sort of rings true when Howe is saying it. When he speaks, you want to listen.
Loyalty is becoming an increasingly dirty word within football, even thought of with negative connotations. What would Le Tissier have achieved if he hadn’t been so loyal? Why did Larsson stay so long in Scotland? Like it or loath it (to loath is the strong hint here), we are in the age of clubs selling moneyboxes to children in a club shop in which they can save £10 for an official club snood (I’m looking at you Manchester City) and England defenders using social networking sites to call ex-internationals “alcoholic abusers” whilst discussing a Police caution for stealing a toilet seat (I’m looking at you Glen Johnson). So it is incredibly refreshing to hear a genuine feel good story initiated by some good old fashioned allegiance
Howe could not have been blamed for taking one his offers. He has lost some of his best players, Bournemouth are still struggling financially, and he is a young man with a growing reputation.
But sometimes loyalty sticks, and maybe, just maybe, Howe thought that he hadn’t taken the club as far as he could, and that he didn’t need to challenge himself at a higher level. And that is as refreshing as it gets in a month where Wayne Bridge dates Frankie Sandford and four sides were chasing Steve Sidwell.