Many hoped Eddie Howe would rock up at West Ham after Sam Allardyce departed but he didn’t and now is being tipped to replace Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium when the Frenchman finally hangs up his sleeping bag coat. In hindsight, the board’s decision to go for Slaven Bilic appears to have been the correct one with him enjoying a stellar first season.
But I do still wonder what might have been happened if we’d have opted for Howe – and should the board decide to twist again at the end of the season, we could do a lot worse than the Bournemouth boss. There is no doubting his managerial credentials having taken a tiny club on the seaside on a shoestring budget from the depths of despair to the Premier League.
He also did a solid job in his brief stint in Lancashire at Burnley, although in truth he missed his home comforts and hurried back to Bournemouth after just a season at Turf Moor. The Bournemouth man’s philosophy is one that should be admired, the core of his squad is English. His squad may not be blessed with the greatest talents but the style of play is at times delightful on the eye.
Indeed his side was unlucky to fall short at the London Stadium in August last season as a late Michail Antonio header gave the Irons a 1-0 win over the 10- man Cherries. He also handled a very delicate subject superbly with the tragic news of Harry Arter’s loss of his baby, and showed great humanity and class by helping the midfielder through the toughest of times.
Looking from afar it seems that the Amersham-born man has created a magnificent team spirit on the south coast. He certainly ticks many boxes for a board and he has dealt with lows and highs with the same mentality. But with those many ticks come many crosses. He has rarely ventured away from the south coast, even during his playing days, where he spent the majority of his career at Bournemouth with a brief stint at Portsmouth and Swindon Town in-between.
He very much seems like the character who likes his home comforts, and that showed during his spell up north with many claiming that he never really looked comfortable in Lancashire. Would he be able to handle the fast-paced environment of London? What about the big egos at a bigger club?
No disrespect to Burnley and Bournemouth but West Ham and Arsenal are huge clubs in comparison, and that ‘big club’ tag brings great pressure and high expectations levels. At Arsenal it would be the demand for instant success following the lack of perceived success under the latter stewardship of Wenger. At West Ham it is the demand for future success given the move to a 60,000 capacity stadium.
There is a line of argument that the one time he entered a different type of pressure he ran back home to sunny Bournemouth. Leaving the Vitality Stadium to go to London Stadium would be a massive culture shock for Howe, where he would enter a totally different dressing room with a mixture of languages and personalities.
He is known to create a dressing room full of the ‘right’ mentalities, mainly British-born and with a never-say-die-attitude that he has created over the years from the League One and Championship days where he crafted a team spirit and style that has seen a natural progression into the top flight. So to enter a dressing room that has a different culture, views and style would be his greatest challenge. Could he cope? According to his close friend Harry Redknapp, he couldn’t.
I admire what he has done at Bournemouth, he is one of my favourite managers in the league, but I just doubt that he would be a man that the board would go for. In the fans’ eyes, Gold and Sullivan will go for a big name to attempt to appease the doubters. They would see Howe as a risk and I would agree with them, I think he would crumble under the pressure of walking into the cauldron that is the London Stadium.