Ahead of Bournemouth v Southampton, live on Sky Sports Premier League on Sunday, Eddie Howe talks to Patrick Davison about his time with the Cherries, his “fierce ambition” and making sacrifices to “achieve great things”…
The picture at the top of the pile is of a young Eddie Howe in a Bournemouth kit.
It was taken even before the centre-half became a firm favourite with the supporters. Long before he began his astonishing work as their manager.
Howe, who is good company away from the pressure of a Premier League matchday and who does a nice line in self-deprecating humour, immediately spots problems. Firstly, his hair.
“I was told, ‘you need to do something with the hair’ by my missus at the time, friends and everybody,” he says, though he ignored the advice for a while and persisted with the curtains.
“I liked it, it was the haircut of that time, I like to tell myself. Though looking back, no one else seems to have had it!”
There’s another issue. He’s signed the picture with what looks like one of his first autographs. “Shocking,” he says. “It looks like it’s written by a child.”
He’s probably about 20 in the picture but looks even younger. Today he still looks younger than his age, what’s troubling him though is that, as of Wednesday, that age is now 40.
“I’m not feeling great about it to be honest,” he says, almost smiling. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been dreading it but I’m not happy about it.
“It’s the first time I’ve been aware of my age, it’s given me an awareness that time is moving very quickly and it’s a step nearer 50, which for me is uncomfortable.”
I brought around 20 photos to the interview to try and approach his and Bournemouth’s barely believable rise from a slightly different angle. It’s clear the incredible journey has not been without its detours.
For a start, he wanted to be a cricketer.
“Growing up, I was very passionate about cricket.
“I considered myself an all-rounder, but I was probably more of a batsman. I batted three or four. Square cut was my shot so if you bowled it there it was gone,” he says, before reflecting on a family decision to move house, towards Bournemouth, that saw football become his passion.
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“When I got older, that’s when football took over. But that was only because I came down here and it was more football based, so it was probably fortunate that we moved.”
Then there’s the team photo which features not just Howe but his old dog Rodney, who was so special to Howe that he remembers him with a tattoo of the letter ‘R’ on his wrist.
Today he has another dog, a boxer called Eric, who helps him escape the weight of management.
“The job is so intense and so the rare moments that I get to relax are with my children and walking the dog,” says Howe.
“They are moments when you can reflect and look back and think about everything that the job entails and you can make decisions in those moments when you think, ‘right that is what I am going to do.’ So I do find those moments useful.”
I’ve also included a picture of his time at Burnley. A time which, despite results not being what they might have been, he remembers fondly for the most part.
“For me, there is never any negativity towards the club [Burnley], people, supporters or players. It was an incredible experience and one I desperately needed as I had only seen Bournemouth,” he says, before touching on the tragic loss which saw him depart the north-west. “The sudden death of my mother had a huge knock-on effect for me and coming home just had to happen for me on a personal level.”
The chance to return to Bournemouth came at just the right time for his personal life and his career.
Even so, Howe hates the suggestion that Bournemouth is comfortable or easy for him. He’s determined that he and the club continue to move forward. If it was ever right for both for him to leave again, he would.
“I have no problems in moving, I think you have to if you’re going to progress, to go out of your comfort zone and be the best you can be. I think that is a must sometimes.
“I’m absolutely driven and focused for the team. The perception may be that it’s comfortable but I’m determined to be successful. Yes, I’m content in the environment but I’m also fiercely ambitious for the club.”
Pictures of him celebrating the three promotions he’s achieved with Bournemouth take the conversation in another direction. The lack of young English coaches in the top division and whether there’s any way to ensure more breakthroughs.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe says the derby with Southampton is 'continuing to grow'
“I’m not proud of the fact there’s so few English coaches around, I’d love there to be more, I think there should be more.
“But obviously it’s such a tough league, it’s the best league and the best means you can recruit the best from outside.
“It’s up to us to try and do better but the opportunities are becoming rarer and rarer for English coaches and I think probably the only sure way to get to the Premier League is to get promoted.”
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When Howe started out he was the youngest manager in the football league at 31. Even now, at 40, and after nine years and 433 games as a manager, he’s the youngest in the Premier League. If he proves as addicted to the game as the likes of Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson, he could be managing for another three decades.
“I can’t look 30 years ahead! Your personal and family life are totally stopped on every level while you manage,” he says, looking at the final picture, one of him on the pitch at the Vitality Stadium with one of his sons.
“There are days when you spend time apart (from your family) and you think, I might not get that time back, that’s something every manager will be able to relate to.
“But that goes for any job you want to be hugely successful in. You have to make sacrifices to achieve hopefully great things.”
Watch Bournemouth v Southampton live on Sky Sports Premier League from 12.30pm on Sunday