SCOUT Phil Smith assesses Eddie Howe’s first year in charge and the potential to make the play-offs
Several readers have been in touch to request my opinion on Eddie Howe, now that he has recently celebrated a year in charge of this magnificent football club.
The question warranted a sizeable response, and thus it was unable to be answered in a short summary at the end of a regular column.
However, the lack of a midweek fixture has now provided ample opportunity to offer a suitable reflection.
Even the greatest football manager will make mistakes in the transfer market, Manucho and Mame Biram Diouf at Manchester United evidence of this point. The latter scored just once whilst at Old Trafford, typically against ourselves!
I remain adamant that we require an extra central midfielder, but, in terms of the acquisitions he has made, Howe can be pleased with his efforts. Replacing Tyrone Mears with Kieran Trippier was an absolute masterstroke, and the former Manchester City loanee could play in the Premier League right now, of that I have no doubt.
His own experience as a youth coach at Bournemouth, coupled with the appointment of Jason Blake, should see more of our own talent come through the ranks.
Bar a few obvious exceptions, we haven’t had that many make the transition from Gawthorpe to Turf Moor, and any improvement in this ratio must be encouraged.
Ultimately, however, football is a result based industry, and, as a result, a definitive assessment can only be made at the end of his tenure.
When Brian Laws was dismissed as manager, we were sat in ninth place, two points off the top six, with a game in hand.
The season concluded with us seven points away from the play-offs, and so we cannot point to an improvement in the first five months of his reign.
The current campaign began poorly, and relegation was more than an unsubstantiated concern as late into the season as November.
The frustration grew as we began to be outplayed up at the KC Stadium, but, all of sudden, David Edgar banged one in 12 minutes from time, and we went on to win the game in the most remarkable of circumstances.
A demolition of Ipswich Town and a fully deserved victory at the Boleyn Ground followed, and, by New Years Eve, we had climbed into seventh place.
We have not been any higher since, adverse weather against Derby County and Peterborough United can probably be to blame for five points, but defeats at Leeds United and Southampton were difficult to stomach.
Our Premier League Parachute payments are slashed from the start of 2012/2013,and logic dictates that when you also factor in the imminent FFP ruling, promotion will become harder as the years begin to progress.
When relegated, did anyone genuinely believe that, two years later, we would have failed to earn a play-off spot, at the very least?
Evidently, the final 14 games of the season will determine whether that is the case, but, if it becomes a reality, it cannot be classed as anything but failure.
Eddie currently enjoys a greater win percentage as Burnley manager than Owen Coyle.
I doubt he would be as arrogant to liken promotion to “leading us out of the wilderness”, but Howe will ultimately be judged on his ability to get us out of this division.
I am sure I am not alone in wishing him every success with this aim.