Eddie Howe has been named Newcastle United's new manager. And while he is a good appointment, doubts remain over his long-term ability.
Newcastle United’s new owners might have come in at long last, but everything about the club remains more or less the same. Well, almost everything. The club dismissed Steve Bruce at the end of October, and now have named his replacement – Eddie Howe.
At first glance, it isn’t the most glamorous of appointments. Howe is best known for his eight-year spell at Bournemouth, where he changed the fortunes of the Dorest-based club.
When he first managed the club, they were in the fifth division of English football. He managed to take them up the pyramid in rapid fashion, including an unlikely trip to the Premier League.
The club spent five seasons in the top-flight but Howe was unable to stave off relegation in 2020. Thereafter, he duly resigned from the post and has been out of work since.
His lack of suitors might seem like a bad sign, but Howe was very nearly named Celtic manager this summer. Negotiations would eventually break down, but he is now the main man at Newcastle United.
His appointment, however, does draw some paralells to a managerial change made by Manchester City just before they were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United group.
In 2008, City brought in Mark Hughes to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson in the managerial dug-out. Barely three months later, the club was bought out by their current owners.
This naturally sparked some debate – new owners, after all, are more than likely to install their own men rather than keep those left behind by the previous regime.
However, City stuck with Hughes – and made massive sums of money available to him. The new owners meant business and there was no lack of quality brought in.
But that wasn’t enough to keep Hughes in a job. He lasted little over a season before being sacked in December 2009, being replaced by Roberto Mancini.
And Hughes, it must be noted, didn’t just luck out to get the job. His four years at Blackburn Rovers had seen the club go from relegation strugglers to playing in the UEFA Cup – the tournament now known as the Europa League.
Granted, they did finish 10th in his third season but rebounded next year to finish 7th. Indeed, the job at Blackburn and his impressive spell in charge of Wales before that had many laud City’s appointment of Hughes.
Instead, his time at the club was by all means poor. And he was soon replaced by a man who could better use the elite players at hand.
Eddie Howe will be seen in many quarters as a similar appointment. He was not even Newcastle’s first-choice – that would be Unai Emery, who turned down the job very publicly after Villareal, his current club, were furious at the approach.
A manager doing a good job in smaller teams before being unable to make the step-up is not a new tale. David Moyes suffered the same fate at Manchester United after his spell at Everton.
Will Howe suffer a similar fate? It is entirely possible. However, it is also unfair to write off the young English manager at such an early juncture.
Yes, there are places he can improve on but it would be foolish to suggest he doesn’t have the makings of a fine manager.
For one, his record at Bournemouth deserves respect. On an absolute shoestring budget, he got them promoted multiple times – from the fourth tier to the top flight.
He then saw them remain in the Premier League for five whole seasons. To top things off, he played a brand of football that was attractive to watch.
His style of play will doubtless appeal to Newcastle fans, who grew weary with safety-first football over the past few years. Plus, their new riches ensure that Howe would have access to the kind of players he did not at Bournemouth.
On top of that, Howe is very much of the modern era of managers; the types who put in the hard yards in the training ground. Howe’s ability to coach players is beyond reproach; he collectively and individually improved many at Bournemouth.
Given this Newcastle side lack any real identity, Howe will be a breath of fresh air in that regard. His Bournemouth side played in a well-defined and stylish manner, and fans will hope he can translate that into his current job too.
Of course, there are aspects of his managerial game on which Eddie Howe must get better – and fast. The first will be his ability to organise a defence.
His Bournemouth side were wonderful in attack but too open at the back. It led to them conceding more goals than they probably should have.
The other worrisome aspect will be his record in the transfer market. Howe’s ability as a coach is without reproach, but Bournemouth made some real dud signings under him.
Jefferson Lerma, Jordan Ibe, Brad Smith and Dominic Solanke all rank as particularly poor bits of business. Lerma is still at the club but hasn’t fully lived up to his potential.
Solanke has finally begun scoring goals in the Championship, meaning his time at the side might be seen as a success after all. However, Ibe and Smith were horrible signings.
Ibe arrived for GBP 15 million, spent four years at the club and scored just 4 goals. He departed on a free. Brad Smith was signed for GBP 6 million, made 5 appearances in four years and also left on a free.
Given Newcastle can sign any player they please, the pressure will be on Howe from the word go. Navigating that will be trickier than it was for him previously.
Yet even if Howe can stabalise the team as a Premier League side, he will be seen as a success. Such is the rut Newcastle United are in. Any progress from here on out is good for the club – and for Howe.