AFC Bournemouth

Many people will tell you, as you approach the end of your 39th year on earth that ‘life begins at 40.’

Maybe this is meant as a timely self-serving kind of boost; a reassurance thing for those who have underachieved to date or feel as if they are generally getting nowhere – a bit like Tottenham Hotspur and the ‘1’ in the year, as in becoming League Champions in 1951 and 1961 or FA Cup Winners in 1901, 1921, 1961, 1981 and 1991? If so, don’t worry Spurs fans: only four years to wait.

On the other hand, it is often used as a piece of reverse psychology in that ‘you’re not getting old at all’ even though you patently are, or ‘you’re only as old as you feel’ which has always struck me as odd and a bit like saying ‘that grey hair makes you look so much younger.’

Edward John Frank Howe was born on 29th November, 1977 and so he must be getting plenty of these kinds of comments as he approaches the magic number.

We know him – though actually most of us don’t know him at all – as ‘Eddie’ Howe, allegedly one of the best ‘young, English managers.’ Apart from wondering how Eddie interprets his post-21 coming of age it does beg the question of when does someone stop being referred to as ‘young?’ The ‘English’ bit always strikes me as the work of Daily Express-reading, Brexit voters who cannot accept that we no longer have an Empire and would never have shared the game with those beyond our borders if we had honestly thought they would come back, time and again, to beat us at it.

How does Eddie feel at the moment? Well, pretty angry at his side’s defensive performance against Hull City at the weekend when they took the lead at the KCOM Stadium (who doesn’t?) after just three minutes, only to manage the game so well that they ended up losing it 3.1.

“From that [very early] moment, we never seemed to recover our composure…I don’t know why. It’s a really difficult one to work out,” Eddie is alleged to have commented after the match as he flicked through his many books on metaphysics and dossiers on the preferred diet of tigers in both Asia and East Yorkshire.

To be fair, Eddie usually does come up with the answers – it’s in the family name for goodness sake – and he is a serious, studious sort of chap, more Frank or ‘Steady Eddie’ than John and he is, after all, ‘his own man’ which is another lazy epithet attached by the football media and which can only really be challenged via the transgender debate.

Remember though that Eddie did leave Burnley to re-join Bournemouth after just 18 months, citing ‘personal reasons’ which could well have included his need to talk in plain English again rather than in an impenetrable Lancashire dialect, or the need for sunshine as opposed to incessant Pennines rain?

To date he appears to have made the right decision, leading his team to more promotions than Frank Warren and the prestigious ‘Football League Manager of the Decade Award’ in 2015. If that doesn’t sound like a made-up kind of tribute, then I will get the best-supporting actor gong at the Oscars for my role as an enthusiastic teaboy in the new film ‘Howe, Sampson, Johnson, Monk: the best young English managers back four more…’

Which brings us back to Eddie’s current dilemma. Through that plain English narrative he coveted so much, he declared before the match against Hull that he wanted his defenders to deliver a performance that would ‘dissuade’ him from entering the transfer market this month.

As these same defenders seem to collectively and individually fail to do their homework (captain Andrew Surman has since tried to make it even easier, calling them ‘careless and sloppy’) – conceding three goals now in seven of their previous nine Premier League goals – Eddie set them some new lines to copy: “When you are chasing the game, you expect a bit more urgency, a little bit more endeavour to try to find a way back in there.”

Dissuade. Endeavour. Fine words as usual but, unless defending begins at 40, life, as Eddie Howe knew it, will change and a new lesson plan will have to be learned. Otherwise Bournemouth might well be following the textbook examples of Blackpool and Northampton Town in heading all the way up to the top class, only to fall all the way back down again to the infants.