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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Howe To Lose Friends And Alienate People

After Bournemouth's Eddie Howe leaves to take over at Burnley, Nobes considers the issue of loyalty in football and whether there's a way to overcome the loss of a manager.

Eddie Howe spent two successful years as boss of Bournemouth

It was the kind of dramatic U-Turn more commonly seen on an episode of Top Gear - or at a Lib Dem party conference.

A fall from grace so spectacular he went from Jesus to Judas in a matter of days. From hero to zero in less time than it takes to say: "A consonant please, Rachel."

The rare beacon of loyalty in a game with no morals who simply joined the queue of greedy opportunists only out for themselves and personal glory.

After the Bournemouth beach parties on Tuesday comes the hangover. Eddie Howe has upped sticks to the sticks - and moved to manage Burnley.

Believe it or not, the above sentiments will, more of less, represent the views of some Bournemouth supporters left feeling angry and let down by the man who, in just two years, has taken the club from second bottom of the Football League to third in League One.

Some may feel they are justified to be fuming after Howe's very public declaration of loyalty last Tuesday, informing fans that he had turned down the chance to join Crystal Palace and Charlton to stay on the South Coast.

Then, he spoke of the joy of being around the club and how he felt he couldn't leave the current squad of Cherries players. However, the courting of Dean Court's supremo didn't stop there - and this time nor did he he.

The chance to take over at Burnley, a club financially sound, strengthened by their season in the Premier League last term, and with the resources required to get back to the top level, was just too good for him to turn down.

You can hardly blame him, too. The Clarets were sensible in their approach to the top flight, and are now set-up to compete in and around the Championship's top six.

Indeed, if they are to return, they feel this year is their best chance - having retained the majority of their Premier League squad and still benefiting from parachute payments.

Brian Laws found to the cost of his job that simply competing for a play off place is not good enough at Turf Moor this year, chairman Barry Kilby has made it clear finishing in the top six is the minimum requirement.

After overachieving at Bournemouth in the last couple of seasons, Howe is walking into a club with big expectations and where he will be under pressure to deliver results - and quickly.

However, for a man who guided the Dorset club to safety despite the handicap of a 17-point deduction and then didn't even allow a transfer embargo to prevent him from leading them to promotion last season, it will be the kind of pressure he will relish.

Despite those sizeable achievements though, some Cherries fans, just as Burnley supporters felt last term with the departure of Owen Coyle to Bolton, will feel Howe has betrayed them by leaving.

Some, on hearing the news of his interest in the Burnley job, even declared that he shouldn't have anything to do with their Friday evening game at Colchester. It ended in an emotional 2-1 defeat in Essex - no doubt all Eddie's fault.

The problem is we perceive that, because we're loyal fans, so are others at the club. It is, of course, nonsense.

There is only one loyalty in football - and that is from fans towards their team. Everyone else connected with a football club, whether owner, manager, or players, are simply doing a job. It is their livelihood.

Bournemouth celebrate their against-the-odds promotion under Howe last term

They are not required to show loyalty. After all, would supporters be showing loyalty to their manager if he wasn't achieving results? Of course not. They would be calling for his head.

The recent spate of managerial sackings in the lower leagues, too, illustrates once again that chairmen often show their employees very little loyalty as soon as the team start to lose form.

Why then should a manager, in a job which seems under constant scrutiny and threat, have to show loyalty when they are presented with the opportunity to move to a new job?

And a job is the right word. This is how they make their living. This is how they put food on their family's table, how they can afford to put them through education, or go on holiday over the summer.

This is their profession. This is their career. How many of us, if offered a promotion in our work, a better job, more money, or just a fresh challenge would turn it down? How many of us wouldn't be interested or tempted to take it?

Even if we didn't, you can be sure an other half would be pushing us to take it - reminding us of kids to put through university, or being able to take that dream vacation, or being able to acquire that new 3D TV which won't buy itself.

We would be hypocrites to blame a manager for taking a chance he has rightly earned. As much as we might be disappointed by them leaving, we should wish them well and thank them for their good work.

My own club are in a similar boat - with a managerial team who have done a sterling job in the last couple of years, which has seen them linked with clubs higher up the football ladder.

Of course, it's a sign of how well we're doing, but I would be lying if I said the thought of them leaving, whilst not filling me with anger, is one that's worrying. After all, nobody wants to lose the services of a great manager, it's natural.

The fear is, like the Tower of London's ravens, as soon as the successful manager leaves the whole thing will come crumbling down.

It's understandable. A manager is the most important person at a football club. Get the right one, give him time and backing, and he can build a club up.

However, there's a danger in that scenario - the manager becomes the very heart beat of the club. The team is built in their image, to their preference, they become the embodiment of their manager and aren't the same without him.

Take Sean O'Driscoll, who now is Doncaster Rovers. Both in the way the side plays, and the way the club conduct themselves quietly and with dignity.

Paul Tisdale seems to be interwoven into not only Exeter City - a team that plays his brand of attractive football, but the people of the city of Exeter too - with a spirit and atmosphere unique to the Football League.

Is it any surprise, then, that both bosses have not shown much interest in opportunities to leave their posts? Both are intelligent men who would only depart when the time and club was right.

If, and when, they do leave their respective clubs, fans in South Yorkshire and Devon will be rightly concerned about the future.

What would the future hold for Doncaster without manager Sean O'Driscoll?

After all, how often have we seen clubs struggle when they lose an iconic long term boss? Crewe under Dario Gradi and Hereford with Graham Turner are two perfect examples of clubs who have suffered after long dynasties have ended.

In both cases, they were succeeded by their former assistants - Steve Holland at the Alex and John Trewick with the Bulls.

In the end, Gradi returned to replace Holland and Turner sacked Trewick and
temporarily took over until the end of last season.

While the two clubs did struggle on the pitch - they should be put into context. Holland was at a club on a downward spiral, and Trewick's efforts at Hereford were solid compared to this year's campaign.

It would also be fair to say that the fact both Gradi and Turner stuck around in upstairs positions at their respective clubs didn't help. As hard as they tried, they couldn't help but overshadow their successors.

However, despite the succession method not working in those instances, perhaps it could be the way to counter the occurrence of managers leaving clubs and showing a perceived lack of loyalty.

If the loss of one person isn't such a disaster, then fans would surely not be as unhappy when they left?

Of course, it was the foundation of the success Liverpool enjoyed in the '70s and '80s under a string of bosses. Passing on the torch to one manager after another - trained and schooled in the club's ways and principles.

Watford's Malky Mackay is a good example of this. The success enjoyed by Nigel Adkins at Scunthorpe when he was promoted to manager is another. True, it doesn't always work out, but it can.

These days though, managers seem to move in teams, taking their assistant and coaches with them to their new employers - leaving a club in disarray with almost all their staff leaving when a manager departs for pastures new.

It destroys almost all chance of continuity and stability with the heart of a club removed. In the case of Bournemouth, Howe has taken assistant Jason Tindall with him up to Lancashire.

However, perhaps the solution lies in a change in the way football clubs are run. Not only is losing so many staff damaging to one club, it is also expensive for a side to have to hire a whole new set when a new manager comes in.

The former England and Watford boss, Graham Taylor, has suggested that, instead, clubs should employ backroom and coaching staff and hire a manager independently. It's an interesting idea.

After all, in no other walk of business would someone take a whole group of people from his or her previous office into their new one. Only in football do managers travel around in groups with their coaches.

Plus, if part of being a good manager is to man-manage and work with players of different personalities and temperaments, then surely working with existing coaches and other unfamiliar staff can be overcome?

That way, if a successful manager decides to leave his job for another, the shockwaves sent through a club does not have to be as great - with the consolation that the coaching set-up will remain intact with just a new man at the helm.

They often say no one man is bigger than any club. Perhaps it's time to try and ensure that's the case.


  1. As a Bournemouth supporter, I'm 100% behind Eddie, thank him for his monumental loyalty and effort, and only wish him the best. That's because I know what's really happened. Sensationalist journalism is what this article is about. Up the Cherries and the Clarets :-)

  2. It took me three years and a mountain of student debt to learn how to write sensationalist journalism, you know.

    In all seriousness, the introduction quite deliberately adopts such a tone to, if anything, highlight the ridiculousness of such a reaction.

    I have already seen and read comments from some Bournemouth fans who are unhappy at the manner of Howe's departure, too.

    So it's not a claim without substance, nor was I specific on the number. I have no doubts they are in a minority though.

    I also made clear in the article that being unahppy with Howe is not a stance I would share if I was a Cherries fan.

    You can say one thing for sensationalism though... it seems to have a knack of getting people talking.