Manager moves: Howe's that for Burnley?
Eddie Howe’s emotional exit from AFC Bournemouth was just one side of the story. Burnley decided that Brian Laws was not the right man for them and that a successor was needed in order to propel the Clarets up the Championship table. That man is now Howe. Mike Holden assesses the Turf Moor club’s decision.
When Burnley unveiled Brian Laws as successor to Owen Coyle, nobody quite understood what they were thinking and it was a mystery that lingered on right up until his inevitable departure nearly 12 months later.
Having apparently gone stale and run out of ideas in his previous role at Sheffield Wednesday, it seemed as though Laws’ one tenuous credential in connection with the job was a four-year stint with the club at the start of his playing career back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Perhaps this was partly the reason why the fans generally gave him a fair crack of the whip on matchdays, but they certainly made their feelings clear elsewhere via the local media.
To be fair, Laws didn’t disgrace himself. He was hardly a rip-roaring success but he did as well as anyone was expecting of him. Nonetheless, treading water outside of the play-off positions after 22 matches was nowhere near good enough for a squad brimming with Championship quality.
So with parachute payments burning a hole ahead of the January window, the club were clearly not prepared to let an speculative punt turn into a costly mistake with a 2-0 defeat at home to Scunthorpe signalling the end of the road.
Mind you, it should be pointed out that Burnley haven’t lost anything, everything remains in place for the Clarets to bounce straight back up this season and it was obviously starting to dawn on the club that time is of the essence.
Indeed, of all the 13 vacancies that have needed filling in the Football League this month — five of them in the Championship — this was by far the most attractive. Not just the biggest, but also pound for pound, in terms of the potential to succeed.
The Lancashire outfit already have the tools to bridge a ten-point deficit (with two games in hand) in the race for automatic promotion and another three years of Premier League money should allow plenty of room for manoeuvre if things don’t go according to plan. And, cruel though it sounds, there’s also the small matter that Laws should be a relatively easy act to follow.
As such, you wouldn’t have ruled out a man of proven top-flight pedigree stepping down had the money been right but the appointment of Eddie Howe represents something of a gamble.
That’s not to discredit the former Bournemouth boss for anything he has achieved so far. His record in barely two years at Dean Court is clearly extraordinary and worthy of an opportunity at a higher level.
However, the plight of Darren Ferguson provides a perfect demonstration of the challenge that lies ahead for any young man who achieved early success lower down the leagues but seldom plied his trade outside of the bottom two divisions as a player.
In Ferguson’s case, the obvious advantage of the old man on speed dial and the pick of Manchester United’s hottest young properties wasn’t enough to turn his fortunes around and neither did he have to worry about the possible cultural shock awaiting Howe in an industrial town as far removed from the tranquillity of Dorset as you’re ever likely to get.
Nonetheless, you can see why Burnley were so keen to take the chance that they have. Having lived their wildest dreams under Coyle near the beginning of a steep upward curve that is still climbing, it’s possible they might have got in early enough to ride the wave of another.
Nobody can know for sure just how good Eddie Howe is at this point but if he can overcome all of the potential pitfalls to mirror the progress witnessed at Dean Court over past two years, then Burnley will be fully rewarded for daring to dream.
If he doesn’t, the obituaries are already written.
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