Had Claudio Ranieri and Mauricio Pochettino not led their respective Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur sides to surprise title challenges this season, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe would be the most likely recipient of the Manager of the Year award.
The lack of a trophy would not take anything anyway from the remarkable job Howe and his coaching staff have done in keeping one of the Premier League’s smallest teams, in size and budget, in the division this term. Bournemouth are virtually safe with seven matches still to play.
The 12-point cushion separating them from the bottom three will almost certainly be enough to see Bournemouth retain their place in the top flight, particularly as there are currently four other clubs between them and the drop zone.
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As things stand, Howe also looks set to finish above the only other two English coaches in the Premier League – Crystal Palace’s Alan Pardew and Sunderland’s Sam Allardyce – an achievement that would consolidate his status as the country’s most promising young managerial talent.
Still only 38, Howe has a great deal of experience under his belt. Forced to end his playing career at the age of 29 due to recurrent injury problems, the former defender first took charge at Dean Court a year later, rescuing a club who had been deducted 17 points at the start of the campaign from relegation to the fifth tier of English football.
Promotion to League One was attained the following season despite the restrictive effects of a transfer embargo, with Howe winning plenty of admirers for his role in turning Bournemouth’s fortunes around. When he then took his newly promoted side to second place in the third division at the midway point of the 2010/11 campaign, Championship outfit Burnley stepped in to prise him away from the club he had represented over 300 times as a player.
Burnley missed out on the play-offs a few months after Howe took over and then finished 13th in his one full season at the helm. When the chance to return to Bournemouth, who were still one division lower than Burnley at the time, arose in October 2012, he barely hesitated.
That proved to be an astute decision, Howe picking up from where he had left off by guiding Bournemouth to the Championship, where they spent only two seasons before making their Premier League debut back in August.
Early injuries threatened to derail their campaign before it had really got going, with Callum Wilson, Tyrone Mings, Tommy Elphick and Max Gradel all struck down by serious knee and ankle problems.
Howe refused to use that as an excuse, however, instead remaining positive.
A run of eight games without a win between the end of September and start of December led to calls for Bournemouth to adapt their favoured front-foot approach, but Howe kept faith with the methods that have served him so well and was vindicated when successive victories over Chelsea, Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion followed.
Bournemouth have now lost only two of their past nine fixtures, dragging themselves up the league and into the sanctuary of lower mid-table.
It has undoubtedly been another excellent season for one of the brightest young managers in the English game.
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