When a little team from the south coast popped its head up into the Premier League, there were many who scoffed at the idea that they might take on the established teams and come out on top.
It is easy to knock the underdog and not like something new, but any football fans with those thoughts have not noticed that Eddie Howe has been creating something rather special down at the Vitality Stadium.
This is a football coach that lives for every minute on the training ground. He is not satisfied if the team is not putting in crosses with the quality that makes goals and he’ll be prepared to stay late and work with players to get it right. Perfection is not gained by just hoping things happen on the day. Eddie likes to keep players on their toes and to bring the best out of them every day, not just on a match day. He has decided to invest every bit of himself in his job, transforming last season’s Championship title winners into a team that can hold its own against the big named teams that habitually walk off with the end of season silverware. He sees the challenge as merely another opportunity to push himself even harder and work out ways to find a new cutting-edge to his team.
Being able to learn from your mistakes is always said to be a good quality to have, but if Howe makes mistakes we don’t see them very often. The Cherries have become used to winning games, and whenever players are selected to wear the shirt they play in a similar manner with pace, accuracy and precise movement. Stand off this team and they’ll not let you see the ball for a long time. Howe loves possession football and winning early control of the game is always what his players aim to achieve.
There are teams that you might expect his team to sit back against – Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City. It’s a huge ask for AFC Bournemouth players to take the game to the big teams, but they already have at Anfield. It’s simply not the Cherries’ way to try and frustrate and snatch a goal. The former Burnley boss plots the course and guides his players to unpick whatever conundrum is put in front of them. You won’t often hear the main stand at Dean Court shout “attack, attack, attack!” Why? Well, because it’s a given that this side will do that for 90 minutes and more. Goals are what they have come to see and while those wearing red and black in the stands may scratch their heads about the players that they now see lined up against Eddie’s boys, they know that the passing and moving patterns that the 37-year-old’s teams create are likely to baffle players and managers that have been in the game for much longer than this Premier League apprentice.
As fans of the latest football pyramid climbers, we all know that our manager has done his homework. If the team loses it will just be an opportunity to put things right on the training ground. Losing is never allowed to become a habit, and if there is a run poor form everything is examined – from the preparation to the execution on the pitch – whatever it takes to put matters right. We’re not Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool, but don’t go thinking that Eddie Howe doesn’t play to win. The seaside just became a difficult place to visit on a Saturday afternoon.