It’s interesting just how far-reaching Celtic are.
For example, today we’ve been alerted to how interested a former Bournemouth manager would be in taking the reins at Celtic Park. That was through a former Bhoys striker, Mark Burchill (Celtic Huddle Podcast).
There’s little doubt the fans are into it. Back in November, the Celtic supporters were naming Eddie Howe and Marco Silva as the top candidates should Lennon leave. That feels like half a lifetime ago, but the former Cherries boss is still available. And there would be a lot to gain on Howe’s end.
It’d be a big job for anyone to take. There seems little to prevent some of our biggest players moving to greener pastures in the Big five leagues. There are talented prospects in the academy, but as last night’s result showed, the likes of Armstrong Oko-Flex, Karamoko Dembélé and Cameron Harper probably aren’t ready yet.
Celtic are at a significant crossroads. We can either stand still and let the rot set in further under the current regime, or recapture the energy of May 2016. That would involve the signing of a top-class manager.
For Celtic, change is needed imminently
With Celtic surely on the precipice of a significant overhaul, we’re not sure Neil Lennon is the man to take us further. We spoke about this on the Grand Auld Podcast that came out this morning, if you’re interested.
The squad needs freshened up, and sad as it is to say, Lennon just hasn’t done enough to justify his continued presence in the Celtic dugout. You could easily argue that the club is best suited to make the big decisions now, to make the start of 21-22 that much easier.
So why wait until the summer? Aside from the supporters, our biggest benefactor is European football. A stint in the Champions League group stages could make the next five years more fruitful, such is the economic impact of the competition. If Rangers make it and we don’t, we could be counting the cost long-term.
From a Celtic perspective, Eddie Howe could be answer
Burchill told the Celtic Huddle Podcast:
“The thing about being the manager of Celtic is, instantly, you are going to be playing in front of 60,000 fans. Not every Premier League club has 60,000 fans and the worldwide support that Celtic have got.
“Having the opportunity to go and win trophies? I think that’s something that your normal Premier League manager can go ten or 12 years without winning any trophies. So I think that could be something that would entice him north of the border.”
Taking even a cursory glance at Howe’s managerial CV should excite any Celtic supporter. His high-pressing, attacking style is reminiscent of Brendan Rodgers, with a focus on integrating youth players. Having taken Bournemouth from League Two to the Premier League, via an excursion to Burnley, his winning percentages are impressive (Soccerbase). Especially when you consider the speed of Bournemouth’s ascent through the leagues.
His last season with the Cherries was less fortunate, but having led Bournemouth to as high as 9th in 16-17 (Premier League), his reputation is solid. He was even linked with the England job in October (Daily Mail).
He is, however, most definitely a “project” manager. His regime would involve root and branch change at Celtic. The academy teams would need to adapt to his tactical style. Howe’s reach across Bournemouth was firm and understood; a total cultural shift would need to implement at Celtic.
Whether the Celtic board would let Eddie Howe do that is subject to question.
Howe’s mixed transfer record, intense training
Howe had an incredibly mixed record in the transfer market, particularly when the riches of the Premier League were available to him.
Signing Nathan Aké for £20m was a masterstroke, and so was securing Callum Wilson for just over £3m. Perhaps his best value transfer was signing un-fancied Aberdeen winger Ryan Fraser for just £432,000 in 2013 (Transfermarkt).
However, he was rightly pilloried for signing Dominic Solanke and Jordan Ibe for big sums. They may cut it at Championship level, but at Celtic that money won’t be available.
However successful he is, there’s clearly a shared identity with Howe’s signings. Like Rodgers, he likes to purchase youthful options for squad depth, with an eye on the first-team. Equally, like our former boss, he likes to blend those options with trusted confidantes. Steve Francis for Howe, Scotty Sinclair for Rodgers.
On the training pitch, Howe is known as a taskmaster who works his players hard. Former Guardian journalist Dominic Fifield said the following on Howe:
“New arrivals can be taken aback by the physical and mental intensity of sessions. Bournemouth’s trademark scintillating play looks as if it comes naturally, but is born of endless drilling.
“Each squad member must understand the movement expected of him, and the responsibility he carries, until it is instinctive.”
For Celtic, it’s Eddie Howe or never
67 Hail Hail have been fans of Howe’s for a long time. When Rodgers left in 2019, we argued that the ex-Cherries boss would be the perfect replacement.
Of course, he comes with caveats. He, like Rodgers, has a trusted and expansive backroom staff that would need to be brought aboard. That kind of sea change doesn’t just happen overnight, and it’ll give legitimate concern to the existing staff. That could be a real sticking point here, as there are certain men that the board like, who are already in place.
Celtic fans would have to be patient, because Howe’s regime change would be extensive. It might not be immediately fruitful, and that’s why it makes more sense to bring him in now than to wait until the summer.
The Bhoys need Champions League qualification, especially after a season without fans in attendance. That cash boost is vital to a club of any size.
As excellent a servant as Lennon has been to Celtic, if the club is remotely forward-thinking then action needs taken now. Not only would it boost morale in the support, it would have a material impact on the club going forward.
When we signed Brendan Rodgers after the disappointment of Deila’s final season (in relative terms), the club made a statement. It’s time to do it again. Howe is the right target at the right time.