Bournemouth have had an incredible rise from League Two to the Premier League in the matter of a few years. Eddie Howe has been with them for every promotion, even though he left the club for a short time. Here, we document how Bournemouth, and Howe, managed it.
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.
Howe played as a central defender. He played his first game for Bournemouth in December 1995. 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 the 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 says he ended up jumping two feet lower than he had previously.
In 2004, with Bournemouth in financial struggle, 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 took over 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 December 31, 2008, Eddie Howe’s phone rang. He was being offered the caretaker manager’s job at the club. 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, the club 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.
In Eddie Howe’s first full season in charge, Bournemouth played in League Two again after the Great Escape the previous season. There was a huge turnaround from the struggles they were so used to, as they finished second and were promoted to League One.
2010/11 – 2012/13
Eddie Howe left Bournemouth in January 2011 and moved to Championship club Burnley. He signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the club, 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 by car. 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.
Howe replaced Paul Groves at Bournemouth, who was sacked shortly before. He not only pulled Bournemouth away from their early season relegation battle, 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 big deal to a club that had been struggling so much not long before.
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 April 27, 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 best ever piece of silverware.
In April 2015, Howe was named as the Manager of the Decade at the Football League Awards.
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, is 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.
Bournemouth and Eddie Howe won’t take being in the Premier League for granted. It’s only been a few years since they were playing the likes of Carlisle and Hartlepool. While it now feels like they’re an established Premier League club, they could easily face some difficulties in the future. Difficult times are never far away for any club, and Bournemouth are no exception to that. They will, of course, hope they remain in the Premier League for many years to come. They’ve continued to improve year after year, and will hope to continue improving. The Cherries will want to continue to establish themselves as a top-flight club and keep improving. As long as Eddie Howe is there, the sky is the limit.
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 has done 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.
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.
“How Eddie Howe masterminded Bournemouth’s rise from League Two to the Premier League” is part of our in-depth series, with a new article being published every week.