Friday 12 October 2012 is a date engrained in the history of AFC Bournemouth. That day marked the return of the prodigal son, former player and manager Eddie Howe, for a second tenure in the manager’s office at the Goldsands Stadium. Fast-forward two years and a different football club sits at the corner of Kings Park, with the side now an established Championship outfit.
Howe returned to the club in a far better position than when he started his managerial career in 2008, but with just one win from the opening 11 games of the season and real fears of relegation being voiced from the stands many questioned the return. Fourth from bottom and a squad falling apart at the seams did not look like a quick fix. But such is the way with football that the improbable soon becomes reality.
Between October and the end of the season the turnaround was quite stunning. 22 victories and six draws took the Cherries from 21st in the League One table to second, and they might well have clinched top spot were it not for dramatic scenes at Brentford’s Griffin Park involving Marcello Trotta and a missed penalty. Nevertheless, Howe’s work could not be undersold. He had lifted the side from its knees and taken it all the way to the second tier of the English league – the first time the Cherries had played at that level in 20 years.
Into the Championship and pundits from all around the game conceded that Howe would do well to keep his beloved Bournemouth in the Championship. Early schoolings at Watford and Huddersfield appeared to suggest not even Howe could work another wonder at Dean Court. But if you learn nothing else from looking at Howe and his relationship with AFC Bournemouth, it is to expect the unexpected.
No one realistically expected promotion from League One in the 12/13 season, so to have predicted that Bournemouth could finish their first season in the Championship in the top 10 might have left people questioning your sanity. Howe’s men achieved that exact feat however, and in doing so finished above seasoned campaigners such as Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough and Leeds United, underlining the overhaul of the Dorset outfit in such a short space of time.
On to this season and the roller-coaster of football has already given Bournemouth fans the full spectrum of emotions, however the level-headed Howe has never sacrificed his philosophies in the way he wants his team to play. The meticulous attention to the finest of details is a mark of the man who bears the experience of someone much older than his 36 years. Management in the Premier League is an inevitability for Howe, but he has admitted himself the easiest way to get there would be at the helm of Bournemouth.
It is too early to say whether the Cherries can make it this season with over 30 games of the Championship campaign remaining. Already, however, this season’s performances have shown progress from last year and nothing will please Howe more than to see his side continually develop as individuals and a unit. There is no better marker of this improvement than the opening day victory over Huddersfield. In the previous season the Cherries were embarrassed 5-1 at the Galpharm, but this time around they returned the favour winning 4-0 in Yorkshire. Elsewhere, the weekend’s 8-0 humbling of Birmingham City lifted the side to fourth in the league.
A modest man, Howe will never preach his achievements or boast of his successes, instead preferring to always push himself and his side to do even better.
The past two years have arguably been the best in living memory for Bournemouth fans and maybe, just maybe, Howe can go and rewrite history by taking the Cherries to the Premier League.