Shaun MacDonald described Eddie Howe’s return as AFC Bournemouth boss in 2012 as “the perfect fit – like putting a glove on a hand”.
MacDonald welcomed his third manager in the space of 14 months when Howe was reappointed with the club marooned in the League One relegation zone.
The popular Welshman epitomised Howe’s footballing philosophy and was a pivotal figure as the Cherries won promotion to the Championship in 2012/13.
Nicknamed ‘the ginger Zidane’ by Yeovil fans during loan spells with the Glovers, MacDonald would have featured more had it not been for some bad luck with injuries.
The midfielder, who was signed by Lee Bradbury from Swansea in August 2011 and also played during Paul Groves’s tenure, flourished under Howe and assistant Jason Tindall.
He made 101 appearances in all competitions, including getting a taste of the Premier League, before joining Wigan Athletic in August 2016.
MacDonald battled back from a double leg break in April 2017 and moved to Rotherham at the start of this season, helping them to second place in League One before the campaign was put on hold.
Looking back at 2012/13 in the latest in our series of interviews for The Journey, MacDonald started by recalling the events leading up to the return of Howe and Tindall.
He told afcb.co.uk: “We had a good pre-season. We went to Spain on a training camp and things were looking good.
“There was a lot of optimism around the club. We had a good squad and were hoping to be there or thereabouts that season.
“But we weren’t as consistent as we should have been at the start and then we began to hear rumours that the manager’s job was in the balance.
“None of us wanted that. We were all trying our best but, for whatever reason, it wasn’t clicking for us.
“Once we found out Paul Groves had been relieved of his post, all the talk started about Eddie coming back.
“It was all confirmed before the Leyton Orient game and the lads who had played under him previously couldn’t speak highly enough of him.
“Although him and Jason didn’t take the game, you could tell straightaway there was such a good feel about the place and we put on a good performance.”
Having impressed a watching Howe during the 2-0 win over the Londoners, MacDonald kept his place for the new manager’s first game at home to Tranmere.
MacDonald, capped four times by his country, said: “After three managers in a short space of time, I craved a bit of consistency.
“All good clubs end up finding a manager who fits the style of the club and Eddie was a perfect fit, like putting a glove on a hand.
“When I first came to Bournemouth, it felt like a second home. Everything felt right from a living and lifestyle point of view. I liked the way the club played football and its ambition.
“When a new manager comes in, they always have their own philosophy. As a player, you have to keep performing because it’s a performance-based game.
“Eddie kept things as normal as possible and didn’t change too much too quickly, especially with the team and personnel.
“Straightaway, you could see from his training how intense he was. He wanted us to work hard on and off the ball.
“He wanted us to press and to always be in the right positions. His attention to detail is what has made him a top coach.
“Off the ball, you had to work hard and, if you didn’t, you would be told straightaway. When he put his point of view across, you listened otherwise you wouldn’t be in the squad.
“He is a perfectionist and his philosophy is total football. That’s why I enjoyed playing under him as much as I did.
“He knew what he wanted. He knew the club inside-out and it was very close to his heart. He would always put the club first and that is a unique thing.
“You can’t go from changing from one style to another just like that, it takes time. As the season went on, we got stronger, fitter and better as a team.
“He didn’t come in and try to throw it all into one week. He carried it on and always wanted more from us tactically.
“We started well and went on a long unbeaten run. We hit a little blip and then finished strongly.
“The bad run probably made us a better team because we clicked at the right time.
“We all stuck together and all knew what we had to do to start winning games again which we did from the start of February. That form is probably what got us promoted.
“Brett Pitman and Lewis Grabban were banging in the goals. We went into games knowing that if we could keep a clean sheet we would win because they would score.”
Asked for his memories of the final game of the season when the Cherries were pipped to the title by Doncaster in dramatic fashion, MacDonald said: “We had beaten Carlisle in our last home game to guarantee promotion.
“But Eddie being Eddie, he wanted us to go up as champions rather than runners-up. That’s why he’s a top manager.
“The pitch at Tranmere wasn’t great for our style of play. But we were confident, we were already promoted and it was in our hands.
“The thought process was ‘right, let’s give this a right good go’. It was a boiling hot day and we worked really hard.
“There weren’t many chances in a really tight game and we had to settle for 0-0.
“We were gathered round a telly watching Sky Sports to see how Doncaster were getting on and it came through that they had scored late.
“We were all gutted and it felt like we had just lost to Tranmere. It was a weird moment and sums up how quickly things can change in football.
“But we had a team talk and Eddie told us we’d had an unbelievable season and achieved what we had set out to do. As disappointing as it was, we had to enjoy being promoted.
“Looking back now, everything happens for a reason. We reached the Championship and things have gone from strength to strength for the club.
“The big things Eddie brought to the club were togetherness and team spirit. It was one of the best and most tightly-knit squads I’ve been involved in.”