The former Bournemouth boss was in the stands to watch his new side draw away at Brighton on Saturday
Eddie Howe is one of the most talked about young British coaches in football and for good reason. He did a spectacular job at Bournemouth in taking a club rock bottom of League Two and seemingly destined for the National League to three promotions followed by five seasons of Premier League football. It was a monumental achievement on every level. For a club the size of Bournemouth, whose Vitality Stadium only holds 11,364, to finish 9th, 12th and 14th in the Premier League was truly remarkable. Over the years we've seen managers lead clubs to back-to-back promotions to the Premier League, Paul Lambert at Norwich City comes to mind, but to then consolidate the club in the top flight for so long and while playing such good football is a feat practically unmatched in the modern era. However, there are some reservations being voiced about his appointment.
Since the blockbuster Saudi backed takeover of Newcastle United officially went through a month ago, there's been a whirlwind of activity and speculation on Tyneside. First the much maligned Steve Bruce was relieved of his duties, but not before he was allowed to see out his 1000th game as manager. Graeme Jones was placed in caretaker charge and a search party was sent out to look for The Magpies' new leader. Villarreal boss and four time Europa League winner Unai Emery was courted but decided to turn down the club's advances and remain in his current post. Attention turned to the supposed second choice, Eddie Howe, who has since been appointed.
The news has been met mostly with enthusiasm by fans and pundits alike but there are some voicing concerns about whether or not the former Cherries manager will find success at St. James' Park, concerns related to his brief stint at Burnley, his final season in charge of Bournemouth and the disparity in size between the those clubs. We know that kingcasinobonus explained very well what happens to your brain when you gamble but the question must be asked: are Newcastle taking a big gamble by appointing Eddie Howe?
Relegated with Bournemouth
Despite his stellar record at the club, there is the small matter of Bournemouth's relegation. Howe did lead the club to multiple promotions and even consolidated them in the Premier League but because of that great work he only really successfully won a relegation battle in the first of his four seasons in the top flight. The middle three campaigns all went very well and saw them achieve comfortable mid table finishes. When things went wrong, during Howe's final season at the Vitality, he was unable to keep them alive in a relegation scrap which ultimately saw them relegated in 18th. There was the not insignificant factor of the pandemic and a huge injury list to contend with, but the fact remains that when things got really tough at the wrong end of the table, Howe was unable to stop the bleeding and keep them in the league by hook or by crook. This is exactly the task he faces at Newcastle. The club isn't going to coast to a cosy mid table finish this season. They are in the midst of a relegation dogfight and need to claw their way out of it. Will Eddie Howe be able to do that or will Newcastle go down to the Championship immediately after being bought by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, much to the amusement of most football fans?
Unsuccessful Stay at Burnley
Another big question mark for Eddie Howe is over whether or not he can do well at another club besides Bournemouth. After starting his coaching career at the extremely young age of 29 when his playing career was curtailed by injury, Howe spent three years in charge at Bournemouth before he got an offer to take over at Burnley which he accepted. Owen Coyle had recently led The Clarets back to the top flight for the first time in 33 years but he left them to join Bolton half way through that Premier League season. Brian Laws replaced him and the club went straight back down to the Championship. The board stuck with Laws for half of that season until he was finally sacked in the January and Eddie Howe came into the picture. With the expectation clearly an immediate return to the Premier League, a push for the playoffs was unsuccessful and Burnley finished 8th. The former Bournemouth boss then led them to 13th the following season before being dismissed himself. He was in charge at Turf Moor from January 2011 until October 2012 and achieved a 39% win percentage during that time. Fortunately for The Clarets, a certain Sean Dyche was waiting around the corner to take Burnley back up and lead the club to arguably the greatest era in its history.
There are factors which could explain the end of Howe's tenure at Burnley. The results weren't up to what the board was expecting is the obvious one, but there have been rumours ever since. Many claim that Howe left due to homesickness with Burnley lying hours away from his south coast home. Others believe he missed the environment he had built at Bournemouth. Howe himself cleared this up in an interview with Coaches View in which he ultimately accredited his departure to the death of his mother. It's difficult to know for sure exactly why he left, or why it didn't quite click for him at Burnley.
Shortly after leaving Burnley he went back down to League One to rejoin Bournemouth and the rest is history. His time in Lancashire does offer some cause for concern that perhaps he isn't capable of achieving success outside of the bubble he built in Bournemouth. How will he perform when confronted with an entirely different ecosystem, with different personalities and egos, with different expectations, with no familiarity? This is Howe's best chance to prove that he can do good things at a club which could not be any different from Bournemouth. Will he take it? Newcastle fans will certainly hope so.
Doubts over his transfer acumen
When the new owners start splashing the cash in January, they will be demanding results immediately. It remains to be seen whether or not Howe can make shrewd acquisitions in the market. It's understood that Newcastle have no real structure in place as regards transfer activity from above so the new manager will at the very least be heavily consulted on such decisions. This may seem like a positive but it also means there are less excuses for failure. His transfer policy at Bournemouth was brought starkly into question the better things got and the more funds became available. Dominic Solanke has gone on to do pretty well at Championship level but he wasn't and isn't a Premier League level player. He was signed for a large outlay by Howe. Jordan Ibe was a club record flop who is now a free agent after leaving Derby County in the summer. Signings like these and several others saw Howe rightly criticised for his performance in the transfer market. He actually seemed to get better results when operating under a stricter budget. When money is no object, will he waste it or will he find value?
Bigger Club, Increased Expectations
Howe was used to overachieving at Bournemouth. Every promotion was an overachievement. Every season that he kept the club in the top flight was a miracle. Every upset victory over a "top six" opponent was magical. How will he fare when the expectations are infinity higher. The Newcastle United fanbase is notoriously expectant. They baulked at the idea of finishing comfortably mid table under Steve Bruce before the Saudis even arrived offering infinite investment. They are a very passionate fanbase and Newcastle is and was a very big club in English football. Its genuine place in the ecosystem for the last couple of decades is probably a little different to the one that fans perceive but that doesn't matter now. The money is going to start flowing and this club is going places. Let there be absolutely no doubt about that.
Bournemouth were the plucky underdogs. Newcastle are the fallen giants set to rise again. Bournemouth were in League Two when he arrived. Newcastle are an established Premier League club. Bournemouth were operating under a shoestring budget for the vast majority of Howe's time at the Vitality. Newcastle are arguably the richest club in the world on paper. Bournemouth were cheered on by 11,000 fans every other week who were ecstatic to simply be in the top flight. Newcastle managers are regularly derided by fans inside the stadium and on Twitter for failing to meet standards which at times have been out of sync with reality considering the size of the club by modern standards until a month ago, and level (lack) of investment made.
Alan Pardew is perhaps the best example of a Newcastle manager remembered horribly despite the fact that during his tenure he led them to fifth in the league and won the Premier League Manager of the Season award, becoming the first Newcastle manager to ever do so. If you have a bad run of results, or dare not finish in the top half during a single campaign, you will be hounded out by the fans. Those expectations are only going to increase now that the Saudi money is involved. Starting next season anything other than challenging for the Europa League will be seen as failure on the terraces but before Howe can even get to that, he needs to keep them up this season. Can he do it? How big a gamble are Newcastle taking?
Newcastle United's new owners have made their intentions known. They want to challenge for trophies. They want to win things. When the pressure is on to get that process started immediately by avoiding relegation this season, when there are no excuses, when there is no good will from a fanbase which already adores him, when all is said and done, will Eddie Howe be successful on Tyneside? We just don't know yet.
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