Club journalist and former Daily Echo sports editor Neil Perrett has penned this tribute to Eddie Howe
Beginner’s luck or tactical genius?
It didn’t take long for Eddie Howe to prove his credentials in management.
Covering the fortunes of AFC Bournemouth for the Daily Echo, I posed this question in a report of one of his first games in charge in 2009.
The next time I saw Eddie, he picked me up on it.
I can’t remember his exact words, but he was keen to point out that luck had nothing to do with it.
As a sports reporter on the local newspaper, I was very fortunate to have had the working relationship I did with Eddie.
And when the club reached the Premier League and media restrictions tightened, I was probably one of the few journalists who could still contact him at any time, day or night.
The off-season can be a particularly challenging time for football reporters with some media outlets going weeks without having dialogue with their local club’s manager.
One summer, I remember Eddie ringing me back from his hotel room during a family holiday in America and giving me 30 minutes of his time.
Nothing was ever too much trouble.
Over the fateful weekend in September 2015 when club stalwart Mick Cunningham died, Eddie phoned me for regular updates and gave me an emotional tribute for the paper after we had learned Mick had sadly passed away.
On many other occasions, not always football-related, Eddie would always come back to me, either by phone or email. Not once since I’ve known him has he ever ignored a call or a text.
It has always been a two-way street.
Eddie would occasionally ring me to question a line in a match report or a headline on the back page. He would say his piece (and was almost always right), I would try to defend my corner and then we would move on. There were no grudges.
Eddie is the same in public as he is in private and is always a dream to deal with for the press corps.
While some managers would look to publicly ridicule a reporter if they asked a stupid question, this was never Eddie’s style.
Hardened hacks and inexperienced university students receive the same treatment and are always afforded courteous replies.
Even the cub reporter who once thanked Eddie for “beating Manchester United and doing my team Chelsea a favour” was given a wry smile during one of many engaging pre-match press conferences.
Our newspaper reporter/manager relationship was built on trust, a trait Eddie values highly and expects from those around him.
It started way back in the early 1990s when Eddie was captaining the Cherries youth team and continued throughout his playing career and into management.
I remember interviewing him after his first-team debut against Hull City in December 1995 when he was named man of the match.
Even then, having just turned 18 and still a trainee, you could see how level-headed, articulate and intelligent he was.
As a teenager, he never got ahead of himself and knew he still had a long way to go. And while his determination and desire were there for all to see, above all, the unstinting work ethic he showed in those early days has been the biggest constant in his career.
I remember the time he dislocated his kneecap in February 1998. He was putting in extra training on his day off.
As he continued to make eye-catching progress, indefatigable became an oft-used adjective to describe his efforts, while outstanding was one of many superlatives attached to his displays.
A few months after Eddie had won two caps for England under-21s and signed a club-record seven-year contract, he celebrated his 21st birthday.
“Hi Eddie, it’s Neil. I need a big favour. I know this is a bit cheesy but could you come into the office and pose for a picture of you blowing out candles on a birthday cake?”
“No problem,” came the reply. “What time do you want me to come in?”
I remember sitting with him in the board room at Dean Court after he had taken the agonising decision to hang up his boots and thinking how pragmatic his retirement interview was considering injury had forced him to quit at 29.
While hopes of one day turning out in the top flight may have been dashed, he was also humble enough to count his lucky stars that he had been able to play one game as a professional, never mind more than 300.
The day I saw Eddie just hours after he had returned to work having said goodbye to his beloved Labrador Rodney will stay with me forever, as will the time he opened up to me in a moving and very personal interview about the untimely death of his mother Anne.
There was also the eventful period in September 2008 when, along with Kevin Bond and Rob Newman, Eddie was relieved of his duties as reserve team manager, only to be appointed head of the club’s centre of excellence just nine days later.
And then, of course, there was January 2009 when, at 31, Eddie became the youngest manager in the country with the Cherries languishing in 91st place in the Football League.
“Just to be asked was a huge honour and I feel very proud,” he said at the time.
“I just hope I can do the job justice.”
And Howe he did.