No manager in English football defines his club as much as Eddie Howe.
When the new stadium that Bournemouth have planned to replace Dean Court is finally constructed, the odds of one of the stands being named after the current manager are heavily odds-on.
Away from the metropolitan glare, Howe has his own personal fiefdom in the manner managers Brian Clough at Derby and Nottingham Forest and Lawrie McMenemy at Southampton enjoyed four decades ago. The chances of Howe winning a trophy as both those men did with small, provincial clubs is remote in an era of lavishly funded, trans-national corporations masquerading as elite football clubs – but his achievements are not far short of such forerunners.
In May 2015, as Bournemouth were promoted as Championship winners, the club received a significant amount of inverse snobbery, and especially from fans of former establishment clubs like Derby and Forest.
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Benefactor Maxim Demin, a Russian petrochemical magnate living in Sandbanks, the millionaire South Coast enclave, was proclaimed as a lower division Roman Abramovich. The difference is that Demin is not as trigger happy as his far richer compatriot, and why would he need to be when Howe is the absolutely ideal manager for Bournemouth?
The club’s survival and gradual improvement in the Premier League has come as a result of organic growth. Money has been spent, but not lavishly and nothing quite like Fulham coming up this summer and spending £100m or Wolves splashing the cash on Jorge Mendes’ clientele.
Among Howe’s squad, fifth in the embryonic table, there remain plenty of fellow travellers from the lower divisions.
Simon Francis, Charlie Daniels, Steve Cook and Adam Smith are defensive mainstays while Andrew Surman and Marc Pugh remain reliable and versatile.
Even the players Howe has signed around them have been unflashy, utilitarian.
His highest profile signings have been Jermain Defoe on a free transfer, loaning Jack Wilshere from Arsenal two seasons ago, and goalkeeper Artur Boruc and Nathan Ake both arriving from Chelsea.
The attacking stars of this season’s fine start of ten points from five matches have been Josh King, signed on a free from Blackburn, Callum Wilson, signed from Coventry for £3m and Ryan Fraser, signed from Aberdeen for £400,000.
As an improver of talent and a polisher of hidden diamonds is where Howe has made a big reputation.
A total of £47.2m was spent in the summer, hardly slim pickings but still fairly limited in the context of a net spend of £27m, placing Bournemouth 13th in terms of expenditure, £2m behind promoted Cardiff for example.
Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma, signed from La Liga, are being slowly introduced while David Brooks, signed from Sheffield United for £11.5m, has made a swift impact in midfield.
Howe is way beyond the status of flavour of the month, his fourth season in the Premier League promising to be the best yet.
But as Sean Dyche at Burnley might now admit, and in considering the fate that befell Swansea City, swimming against the tide, punching above your weight, in the top division is not sustainable forever.
Howe’s next trick must be to overhaul his squad, since the average age is pushing upwards, and particularly within the group that came up through the divisions, right from the lower reaches of League One.
Francis, Pugh, Surman and Daniels are well past their 30th birthdays, while Defoe is 35. Rebuilding a team successfully is a mark of a good manager, and many a top boss struggles with that discipline, with neither Jose Mourinho nor Pep Guardiola having successfully completed a full refit in their career.
In Lewis Cook, England’s Under-20 World Cup-winning captain, 21, Howe has a starlet he ended up preferring to Wilshere. And the England job might one day be Bournemouth’s manager’s destiny, though it is within the rigorous, constant involvement in a club from top to bottom that Howe feels comfortable.
At Bournemouth, he has a club built to his specifications and image; attractive, friendly enough, but with a definite steel and determination to succeed.
Having left in early 2011 to manage Burnley for just over 18 uncomfortable months, Howe knows the grass is not greener beyond his Dorset homelands. And the club’s fans and executives of the club may feel comfort in the elite preferring to import foreign coaching talent than turning to promising young English managers lower down the rungs.
There was a brief link with Everton a couple of years ago, though mostly as a result of Howe’s boyhood fandom of that club’s Howard Kendall era, and the whisper that an approving Arsene Wenger might fancy him as a successor but such links came to nothing.
Instead, Howe has forged on at Bournemouth, relentless in his endeavours at the club he has established in the Premier League.Dribble over to all the latest Premier League betting at PaddyPower.com