The success of Eddie Howe’s return to his south coast home has been well reported in the national media, with a large emphasis being put on Howe’s ability to get his squad pulling in the same direction. But how important will maintaining this unity be to the overall success of the club he holds close to his heart.
Since taking over in his second spell at the club last October, Howe has called upon the services of no fewer than 28 players up to and including the curtain raiser against Charlton on Saturday. His use of all of the players at his disposal could be considered as a risky move by some in the game. However, Howe has never shied away from his beliefs that every player in his squad has a role to play from experience pro’s like Richard Hughes and club legend Steve Fletcher to young prospects like the tricky Scot Ryan Fraser.
Whenever one of his troops is asked about the role Eddie plays, without exception they make reference to his ability to galvanise the group and maintain the bigger picture even when times are tough. After storming their way from 20th in the league to the summit of league one Howe’s men faced a tricky run of fixtures at the end of February and beginning of March. A run of five losses in succession culminating in a crushing last minute defeat to promotion rivals Doncaster at home on a foggy March afternoon saw the end in many people’s eyes, including some of the loyal Dean Court faithful, to the promotion dream. But one man remained upbeat. In an interview with the Daily Echo after the game Howe simply remarked “If we continue to do the right things, I am sure it will turn for us”. Not laying a blame on his players, the referee or even himself, just a stubborn attitude to keep calm and carry on, and boy did they. Closing the season with a run of eight consecutive wins and a draw was deserving of the title, although that was snatched away in the closing seconds of the season, by that side again Doncaster, promotion was secured.
The togetherness of the promotion squad was embodied on the final day with every single member of the Bournemouth squad making their way up to the Wirral to enjoy what could only be described as a party game with their loyal supporters. For such a young man in the world of football management Howe acts much his senior, never laying claim to the success his side achieves, instead deflecting it to his squad with the gentle reminder that there is always a new goal to aim for.
Last Saturday saw Bournemouth make their mark in the second tier of English football for the first time in over twenty years, it was bound to be a special occasion. It was clear to all in attendance Howe had not chosen eleven individuals to take to the field that day, he had picked one team who together worked in perfect harmony and the celebrations after the match showed to the supporters what an important game it was. To the neutral the post match reaction would commonly be associated with a derby win or final day survival. For this side it will not be a result they tell the grandchildren or one that will make season reviews. It was however, a realisation that together as a unit the words their manager had installed in them, that they should not fear this level and that they can achieve great things, became a reality.
What this season will bring Bournemouth is difficult to say at such an early stage. What is for certain is that the unity Eddie Howe has created between everyone at the club, from the paying fan to the kit man, will help them through the inevitable tough times and make the good times so much more worthwhile.