Howe faces test of character as storm clouds gather at cushy Bournemouth… leave his comfort zone and he could succeed Southgate

By | 11th January 2019

IN the space of two months, they have lost ten matches out of 13.

They have plummeted down the Premier League table and been knocked out of both Cup competitions.

After a run of poor games, the storm clouds are gathering at Bournemouth and Eddie Howe is in the eye of it

In their last four matches, they have shipped a whopping 15 goals.

And yet nobody is suggesting that Bournemouth are in any sort of crisis.

Little old Bournemouth, with the smallest stadium ever to host Premier League football, are not such tiny underdogs as many would imagine.

The Cherries have shelled out £147million in transfer fees since winning promotion to the Premier League three and a half years ago.

Does Howe benefit from being in such a comfort zone at Bournemouth?
PA:Empics Sport

They are bankrolled by Russian multi-millionaire petrochemicals dealer Maxim Demin, whose backing takes some of the fairytale element out of the club’s remarkable rise.

A net spend of £107m includes some hefty fees – £25m for defensive midfielder Jefferson Lerma, £20m for defender Nathan Ake, £16 for winger Jordon Ibe, who has flopped.

Just this week Dominic Solanke – a striker who has reached the age of 21 with just one Premier League goal in his career – has been purchased at a price of £19m.

Chelsea are after Callum Wilson but Bournemouth are wealthy enough to demand in excess of £50m.

Howe has overseen the rise of a £50m player in Callum Wilson

This is hardly a club of down-and-outs without a pot to piddle in.

At any other Premier League club, some difficult questions would be asked of the manager.

Not Eddie Howe, though. And after Howe led Bournemouth from the bottom of the Football League basement to the promised land of the Premier League, that’s fair enough.

Two bad months do not override a decade of spectacular success. And Bournemouth’s excellent early-season form means that relegation is almost impossible.

Yet with Howe quoted as the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next England manager, does he benefit from existing in such a comfort zone?

Howe is a renowned workaholic, who undoubtedly puts plenty of pressure on himself, especially when form is bad.

But without the strain of genuine expectation, inside and outside a club, can Howe become a complete manager, ready to take on the England job?

Howe’s decade at Bournemouth was interrupted by a spell at Burnley, where he had far less of an impact and headed back to Dean Court for ‘personal reasons’ after 21 months, with a bang-average record.

It is a blip on Howe’s CV which would have any future employer asking whether he can operate successfully away from the familiarity of Bournemouth.

This is not to be overly critical of a manager who, rightly, was named the Football League’s ‘Manager of the Decade’ in 2015.

Howe was tipped as a successor to Wenger but never got close to the Arsenal job

Anyone who bemoans the relative lack of opportunities for young British managers will cite Howe as a prime example.

This summer it would have been good to see him targeted for the vacancies at Everton or West Ham, clubs with bigger traditions and higher expectation levels than Bournemouth, to see if Howe could make the next step.

Howe’s track record is superior to that of Marco Silva, whom he faces at Goodison Park tomorrow, desperate to halt Bournemouth’s sliding fortunes.

And why could not even have been given a shot at the Chelsea job, when Maurizio Sarri was appointed having never won a trophy?

Yet Howe remains seemingly content in sleepy Dorset, where he is rightly lauded and adored.

He is rarely actually linked to other jobs, suggesting that his ambition is less fierce than many fellow managers, whose agents can be extremely active, feeding the rumour mill on their behalves.

Honourable, talented, over-achieving, loyal, English and with a tendency to pick teams dominated by Englishmen, there is no doubt that Howe would be an excellent candidate to succeed Gareth Southgate.

But hard enough and thick-skinned enough to succeed at the highest level? Nobody knows.

Of course, similar questions were asked of Southgate, whose one job in club management ended in relegation at Middlesbrough.

Yet Southgate did captain three Premier League clubs as a player and he did possess an intimate knowledge of the England age group system, an asset which has proved invaluable over the past two years.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Southgate could leave the England job sooner rather than later.

The Three Lions manager has ambitions to manage a leading club and if such a prospect materialises – perhaps if Mauricio Pochettino were to leave Tottenham – he might not be able to resist it at a time when his stock is so high.

Howe’s stock remains high, of course, even after two shocking months.

But there may come a time when he has to leave behind home comforts and prove himself somewhere less cosy.

THERE’S been much debating about Chelsea’s alternative offside lines after the VAR decision to uphold Harry Kane’s Carabao Cup semi-final goal.

More telling, though, were the comments of Tottenham boss Pochettino, whose side benefited from the tight offside call, with Kane awarded a penalty from which the England skipper scored the only goal of the first leg.

The Argentine again spoke of his dislike for the way VAR takes so much passion and spontaneity out of football.

Pochettino also made the excellent point that football would never be ‘fair’, that a team with the majority of possession and shots and corners can often lose.

As the sport descends into chaos as it searches for ultimate ‘justice’, we’d do well to remember that this search will always be a vain one.

SURELY it would have been better for Tottenham if, some months ago, they had called off their stadium move until next season, suffer one almighty sewage storm, let their supporters get their heads round it and then get on with the actual football.

Instead they have the nightmare of several staggered sewage storms, bringing fresh controversy and disappointment month after month, as the move from Wembley back to White Hart Lane is delayed again and again.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team are enjoying a remarkably good season in the circumstances – but the way chairman Daniel Levy is handling this is unsettling for supporters and players alike.

YES it lacks the essence of actual sport – genuine competitiveness, uncertainty of outcome and dramatic tension – and it lays bare the larger-than-ever gulf between English football’s rich and poor.

But it was still difficult not to admire the mixture of beauty and brutality while Manchester City put 16 unanswered goals past Rotherham United and Burton Albion in the space of four days.

CESC FABREGAS has waved goodbye to English football after 500 matches, an extraordinary 111 Premier League assists, two league titles and an FA Cup.

It’s just a shame that so many people in football find themselves muttering that he’s not a particularly great bloke…

Exclusive illustration by Lovatto

This post written by smorgan originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.

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