Bournemouth had an incredible rise from League Two to the Premier League in the matter of a few years. The club went from almost ceasing to exist, while being placed 91st from 92 teams in England’s top four divisions, to punching well above their weight in the Premier League. This is the story of how Eddie Howe brought Bournemouth from the depths of English professional football to the very top, all in the space of seven years.
Howe’s Playing Career
Eddie Howe was born in Amersham, Buckinghamshire on November 27, 1977. When he was young, he was torn between football and cricket. He close football in the end, and it was a wise decision by the young man.
Eddie Howe played his first game for Bournemouth in December 1995, playing as a central defender. Less than three years later, in the summer of 1998, he was called up to play for the England U-21s in the Toulon Tournament. He was a rare lower league player among a host of rising stars: Frank Lampard, Emile Heskey and Jamie Carragher were in the same squad.
In 2002, Eddie Howe moved from Bournemouth to Portsmouth as Harry Redknapp bought him for £400,000. Unfortunately, Howe suffered a serious injury in just his second game at the club. He dislocated his knee cap and chipped a bone under his knee. He then had a micro-fracture, and his joint was never the same again. The medical treatment he received was below standard. The micro-fracture wasn’t diagnosed for his first two operations. Howe went to America for treatment, and got his injury sorted. But he was told he would never be the same again.
After the injury, he lost his best attributes. His pace, turning ability and jump were all affected. He was small for a centre-half, so his jump was extremely important. Howe said he ended up jumping two feet lower than he had previously.
In 2004, with Bournemouth in financial difficulties, the fans wanted to bring Eddie Howe back to the club. They set up “Eddieshare” and raised £24,000 to re-sign him. Howe managed to play on for three more seasons at Bournemouth, before retiring in 2007. Before retirement, in 2006, Howe began coaching. He managed Bournemouth’s reserve team while he was playing for the first team.
In September 2008, when first-team manager Kevin Bond was sacked, Howe lost his job. He got a return to Bournemouth as a youth coach when Jimmy Quinn was brought in as manager. Quinn was also sacked, with the club in a poor position. On 31st December 2008, Eddie Howe’s phone rang – he was being offered the caretaker manager’s job at Bournemouth. Howe didn’t feel he was ready at the time, but ended up taking the job.
Bournemouth were in an awful position at the time. One year before, the club almost went out of business. They were playing in League One the season before, but were forced into administration. Bournemouth needed bucket collections to survive in 2008. They were deducted 10 points by the Football League and were relegated to League Two that season. With debts of almost £4m, they almost weren’t permitted to enter the league. They were allowed into League Two in the end, but were given a 17-point deduction.
When Eddie Howe took over, Bournemouth were second bottom of the league and seven points from safety. That put them 91st out of 92 teams in the top four divisions in England. Howe ended up losing his first two games as caretaker manager, but the board saw enough improvement to offer him the job permanently. Howe credits Adam Murry, the man in charge of the consortium that took over the club, with seeing something in him.
Eddie Howe was told that if Bournemouth went down that season, the club would cease to exist. Howe told the Telegraph: “Adam Murry, who was in charge of the consortium that came in, saw something in me. I didn’t feel ready. I genuinely didn’t think I was the right man. We were told the club would cease to exist if we went down. To put the future of the club in the hands of a 31-year-old who had never managed was a huge risk but he felt I could do it. I’ll be forever indebted to him. The pleasing thing is we didn’t let him down.”
Howe ended up taking Bournemouth out of the relegation zone. They confirmed their safety with a 2-1 win against Grimsby in their final home game of the season. That was followed up by a 4-0 win away to Morecambe on the final day of the season. This is dubbed “The Great Escape” and it isn’t difficult to see why. Bournemouth were in a dreadful position, but Howe really turned things around and pulled off what seemed almost impossible.
2009/10 – Bournemouth and Eddie Howe promoted to League One
In Eddie Howe’s first full season in charge, Bournemouth played in League Two again after the Great Escape the previous season. They got off to a dream start to the season, which was a huge turnaround from the season before, and won their opening three games. They were beaten 2-0 by Northampton Town in their fourth game, but bounced back to win another five games in succession. On 26th September 2009, after beating Burton Albion to record eight wins from nine games, Bournemouth were four points clear at the top of the league. This was an extraordinary turnaround as, just five months previously, they were fighting for their survival, before confirming their safety from relegation.
Bournemouth didn’t quite keep up that level of performance for the full season, but nonetheless were promoted to League One having finished second. Four wins from their final five games got them over the line, and they were promoted from League Two to League One after finishing one point ahead of Rochdale.
2010/11 – 2012/13
Eddie Howe left Bournemouth in January 2011 and moved to Championship club Burnley. Lee Bradbury took over as Bournemouth manager. Bournemouth were fourth in the table at the time of Howe’s departure, and went on to finish sixth and secure a place in the League One play-offs. In the semi-final, Bournemouth were beaten by Huddersfield Town on penalties after drawing 4-4 on aggregate over two legs.
During the 2011/12 season, Bradbury was sacked by Bournemouth in March 2012 following a poor run of form that saw just one win, two draws and six defeats from nine games. Paul Groves took over from him.
Howe signed a three-and-a-half year deal with Burnley, but only stayed until October 2012. He cited personal reasons for his departure: the reason was that his mother passed away. She passed away in March 2012 after a short illness. Howe was living in Manchester at the time: 250 miles from home and a four hour drive away. Howe ended up leaving Burnley and returning to Bournemouth to help his family.
I found that period just after my mum died so difficult. It was tough on me personally, it was tough on me professionally. I knew my family needed me and the team needed their manager. A team is used to seeing the manager every day in training and being there for games, and suddenly, I didn’t know what to do anymore. There’s no manual for how you deal with everything. I didn’t know how to handle the situation, because I felt I probably needed to be somewhere else – at home – and so I wasn’t emotionally ok.
There was an expectation to be at work and so there was a period where I just worked. Worked and worked. Worked as if nothing had happened, but the reality was I wasn’t doing myself any favours. I’m not the first person to be in the situation and I’ve read several managers have gone through similar things, but it’s very quickly forgotten. People look at a manager as though they’re bulletproof, as though they’re superhuman in a way and can just carry on regardless of what happens. But we’re all human, we all have things going in life that makes it quite difficult for us at times too.
Groves was sacked by Bournemouth on 3rd October 2012, with Bournemouth 20th in the table. Eddie Howe returned to Bournemouth on 12th October 2012. Howe not only pulled Bournemouth away from their early season struggle, but also secured promotion to the Championship as Bournemouth finished second: just one point behind champions Doncaster.
Bournemouth recorded their best ever position in the Football League at the end of the 2013/14 season, as they finished 10th in the Championship. This was a massive achievement for a club that had been struggling so much not long before.
2014/15 – Bournemouth and Eddie Howe win Championship
Bournemouth had a tremendous season in 2014/15, which many wouldn’t have expected. They were at the higher end of the table for much of the season, and had promotion in their sights. They continued to pick up good results, and stayed up there. On 27th April 2015, Bournemouth secured promotion to the Premier League after beating Bolton 3-0. They ended up winning the league after finishing on 90 points. Watford finished second on 89 points. Bournemouth’s final day 3-0 win against Charlton, combined with Watford’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, ensured the club from the south coast won the league. It was their biggest ever achievement, and most notable piece of silverware in their history.
In April 2015, Howe was named as the Manager of the Decade at the Football League Awards.
2015/16 – Bournemouth and Eddie Howe’s first season in the Premier League
Bournemouth being in the Premier League was a huge achievement, but everybody knew that for a club of their size to stay there would be extremely difficult. Fans were hopeful, but not hugely expectant. But they knew Bournemouth would fight throughout the season and have a chance.
Bournemouth – and Eddie Howe’s – first ever game in the Premier League was a 1-0 defeat by Aston Villa. That was followed up by a 1-0 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield. They picked up their first ever Premier League points in a 4-3 thriller away to West Ham: Callum Wilson scored a hat-trick that day.
Between November and December, Bournemouth went on a six game unbeaten run. They had a 2-2 draw against Swansea, a 3-3 draw against Everton, a 1-0 win against Chelsea, a 2-1 win against Manchester United, a 2-1 win against West Brom and a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace during that run.
It was a very positive first season in the Premier League for Bournemouth. They ended up finishing 16th.
Bournemouth made some very positive signings at the start of their second season in the Premier League. Nathan Ake and Jack Wilshere came in on loan from Chelsea and Arsenal respectively. They also signed Lewis Cook and Jordan Ibe.
The Cherries finished ninth that season, which was an amazing achievement. For a club of their size, to come into the Premier League only a year before and hold your own, while finishing in the top half of the table, was unbelievable. Eddie Howe’s side got some big wins that season. They had a 6-1 win against Hull and 4-3 win against Liverpool, as well as draws against Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. They ended the season unbeaten in their final five games; winning three and drawing two. Josh King was their top scorer, as he netted 16 times from 36 Premier League games.
Bournemouth made some good signings in the summer of 2017. They signed Nathan Ake permanently from Chelsea for around £20m. Asmir Begovic was brought in from the same club for around £10m. Jermain Defoe also came in from Sunderland on a free transfer.
But they had a difficult start to the season. They managed to win just two of their first 10 games. Their form went up and down until Christmas, as they picked up some wins and draws, but also lost quite a few. But after Christmas, their form changed.
From December 26, Bournemouth went on a seven game unbeaten run. They beat Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea and Stoke, while they drew with West Ham twice and Brighton once. This run pulled them away from the relegation zone. They won their final two games of the season – against Swansea and Burnley – to record a 12th-placed finish.
Eddie Howe’s side also went on a run to the quarter-final of the League Cup, where they were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea.
At the beginning of the season, Bournemouth made some exciting signings and brought in David Brooks, Jefferson Lerma, Diego Rico, Dominic Solanke and Chris Mepham, reportedly spending almost £80m. Eddie Howe had Bournemouth playing brilliantly at the start of the season. At the end of October, having played 10 games, Bournemouth had already picked up 20 points and were in sixth place in the Premier League, just six points off the top of the table. This incredible form, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not last though, and the Cherries dropped off and won just two of their next 10 games, with eight defeats. Bournemouth went on to finish 14th in the table, amassing a total of 45 points: 11 points clear of relegation.
Bournemouth again got to the quarter-finals of the League Cup, where they were once again beaten by Chelsea. The Cherries finished the Premier League season with the joint-biggest away win, a 5-0 win against Brighton, and the joint-highest scoring game, where they lost 5-3 to Crystal Palace.
In March 2019, Howe was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Bournemouth. This is the council’s “highest mark of esteem” and he was given it because of the incredible job he did taking Bournemouth from League Two to the Premier League.
2019/20 – Bournemouth and Eddie Howe Relegated
In Bournemouth and Eddie Howe’s fifth consecutive season in the Premier League, they finished 18th and were relegated to the Championship. A 3-1 win away at Everton on the final day wasn’t enough to keep the Cherries up as Aston Villa, who had a four-game unbeaten run at the end of the season, drew 1-1 away at West Ham to stay up. Bournemouth ended up finishing just one point from safety as their five-year stay in the Premier League came to an end.
Eddie Howe left Bournemouth by mutual consent on 1st August 2020. Between his two spells in charge, Howe managed more than 450 games with the club, with 190 of these in the Premier League.
Howe wrote an open letter to the Bournemouth supporters on his departure, while the board spoke very highly of him when he left.
Some people try to play down the achievements of Bournemouth because they are backed by Russian businessman Maxim Demin. But it’s impossible to overlook the fact that this club have punched far above their weight and got into this position because of hard work, while overcoming many struggles. If it wasn’t for the work of the fans and people at the club, Bournemouth wouldn’t be around today. And they were pulling off major shocks long before they were taken over by Demin.
Demin’s contribution has certainly helped the club, but the hard work people at the club put in, the fundraising from fans when the club were in dire need of money, and the amazing job Eddie Howe did are all far more of a factor in their success. This is not a club that has bought their way to where they are today.
Before 2014, Bournemouth’s biggest achievement was being in the Championship in the 1980s. Eddie Howe did an amazing job and has done massive things for Bournemouth’s reputation while setting them up brilliantly for the future. The club can build on what Howe achieved, which would have ben impossible without him.
Bournemouth’s tremendous achievement cannot be played down, and they should be admired for their amazing story. They deserve every bit of praise they get.
Eddie Howe returned to the Premier League on 8th November 2021, when he replaced Steve Bruce as manager of Newcastle. This was his first job since leaving Bournemouth.
Bournemouth secured promotion back to the Premier League under Scott Parker on 3rd May 2022.