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Opinion

‘A fantastic appointment for Newcastle United’

3 weeks ago
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It’s finally done then.

We have a new a manager and a timely international break for him to try and whip this squad into something broadly identifiable as a professional football team.

I’m sure he’ll divide opinions but I’m personally delighted that Eddie Howe is our new manager.

He’s somebody Mike Ashley should have turned to before now. I think after his relegation trauma, he probably needed a season out of football, but Ashley should have ditched Bruce at the end of last season (at the very very latest) and got this man in. He’s someone that could have worked with a tight budget and got so much more out of our attacking talent.

We are universes apart from the days of Mike Ashley now. Therefore, Howe may seem an underwhelming appointment to some. But those some appear to be the same neutrals and pundits that have laughed at the suggestion of us getting a Conte or even an Emery. Funny how no matter which way the coin falls, our enemies still find a way to mock us.

From what I’ve seen, Newcastle fans appear to be massively behind this Eddie Howe appointment. Some are genuinely enthusiastic, some are relieved we’ve finally got someone in and some appear to be a little disappointed but willing to give the new man a chance.

I think it’s worth a reminder as to why Howe shouldn’t be considered an underwhelming appointment.

He may not be decorated when it comes to major trophies but he is still only 43 years old and this is what he’s achieved since stepping into management….

He took an unfancied Bournemouth side from League Two to the Premier League in just six seasons. In fact, when he took over at Bournemouth they’d started the 2008/09 season with a seventeen point deduction for entering administration. He took over in December 2008, with the club ten points adrift of safety and steered them clear of trouble.

The following season Eddie Howe guided them to second place and promotion to League One. It’s almost a Keegan-esque transformation. Former player returns to club to save them from relegation before steering them in the opposite direction and challenging at the right end of the table in higher divisions.

He went to Burnley halfway through the following season but a year and three quarters later he was back at League One Bournemouth. He took over again in October 2012 and picked up where he left off, guiding them to another second placed finish and promotion to the Championship.

Two seasons later they were Championship champions and heading to the top flight for the first time in their history.

For these achievements he was awarded the inaugural Football League Manager of the Decade award in 2015. This was despite only having been a manager for six years, just over half the decade in question.

People point to the Burnley blip. He left citing ‘personal reasons’ and people seem to think that this is proof that Howe can only manage on the South Coast. But that was nearly a decade ago. A decade ago and people are still going on about it. Just because he went north once and it didn’t work, doesn’t mean he can’t ever again.

People point to the fact that he took Bournemouth down eventually.

Again, this has to be viewed in context. They went down by a point, a very dubious point for those of you that remember the failure of Hawk-Eye to allow Sheffield United a legitimate goal. That goal would have meant that Aston Villa would have lost and dropped the point that ultimately kept them up.

Eddie Howe also had one of his best players refuse to sign a short extension, after the season was curtailed by Covid, as he feared getting injured and not getting a new contract elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to know how Mr Fraser feels about that decision now.

The fact that Howe had kept a little fancied club in the Premier League so long should be celebrated. He took them as far as he could and it’s a shame that it ended in relegation but it was tight margins and it doesn’t make him a failure. This is a club with a stadium capacity of 11,329 and 581,000 followers on Twitter. People talk about us as a small club but, with all respect to Bournemouth, they actually are one.

Imagine if Klopp had been written off for being relegated with Mainz.

That fella Conte that everyone said is too good for us went down with Arezzo in his first managerial role.

Some bloke called Arsene Wenger saw his first project end in failure, relegating Nancy in his third season in charge.

Good managers can be relegated and bounce back to achieve greatness.

Another accusation thrown at Howe was the money he squandered at Bournemouth. A lot of finger-pointing at the near £40 million spent on a combination of Solanke and Ibe. Agreed, that money on those two seems insane now but, to be honest, both looked like decent players in their younger years. I thought both would become solid Premier League players.

Let’s be fair, Ibe had played 41 times in the Premier League for Liverpool by the age of 21. This is on top of three separate loan spells to lower division clubs. When he was sold for £16 million a buy back clause was inserted into his contract so clearly Liverpool saw his potential. Solanke had been highly rated in the Chelsea youth set up before moving to Liverpool and had played at every youth level for England. He played an extraordinary 80 times across the levels (U16, U17, U18, U19, U20, U21) and scored 36 goals. He even had a first England cap.

They’re hardly the only young players that have not lived up to a multimillion-pound gamble. Rhian Brewster cost Sheffield United over £20 million and only scored his first goal for the club last weekend in the Championship. That’s a year and a few months after signing as a promising striker in the Premier League. There’s a chap you may have heard of in our squad that supposedly cost more than Solanke and Ibe put together and has been about as useful as a Nissan Micra in a drag race.

Eddie Howe has made many, many good signings in the past too. Would you believe he signed Wilson, Ings and Ramsdale for an overall outlay of just over £5 million? Look at those three now. Fraser and Ritchie cost less than a million between them!

With a strong board, progressive scouting links, excellent coaching staff and the financial and structural support to invest wisely, who knows what he could do. Let’s remember the players he had excelling. Three of them are already in our squad and have been named in the bargain buys above. I don’t know if there’s bad blood between him and Fraser but if he could get him playing at the level he was a few seasons ago we’d suddenly be looking very prosperous in the wide positions.

In reality, Eddie Howe is likely to be the starter pack. He will give us the base to grow before a world class manager comes in. Maybe it’ll be a case of waiting for Rafa (at the end or termination of his contract). Maybe a Jose or a Mauricio will finish their latest project and be brought in to take us to the next level.

Or maybe, just maybe, Eddie Howe can do what he did at Bournemouth but from a much higher base. He’s young enough to succeed. Maybe he can have a Ferguson/Wenger style tenure and completely rebuild the club in his image, winning trophies and glory along the way. That is a grand hope of course and I think the first situation is more likely.

However, at least we have a head coach we can get behind now. One that’ll play on the front foot and hopefully not frustrate us in every single interview.

I am 100% for Eddie Howe and I can’t wait for his first game. Howay Howe!

A fantastic appointment for Newcastle United.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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