Old Mr “I Was Hard Done By” is back at it again today, ranting about Celtic’s choices in an attempt to cast a dark shadow over the Eddie Howe move.
Didn’t I say this would happen, that over the course of the weekend we’d get scare stories and then the negativity would start?
Look at The Daily Record today; what a joke that newspaper is, with their story about how Howe was on the telly the other day and refused to discuss the deal. They seem to think there’s something major and significant in Howe not wanting to talk about it.
Yet cast your mind back a few years, at Gerrard in a TV studio a week or so before he was confirmed as the manager at Ibrox; the Daily Record’s line on that was that he “didn’t deny” that he was on the brink.
Honest to God, they think we have short memories.
Commons’ rant was just as predictable; I knew there would be some with a Celtic connection who would use this moment to raise their own profiles by questioning the pursuit of the boss I’ve taken to calling The Miracle Man of Bournemouth.
Commons used almost that exact phrase, but to squash the idea.
Well, if you’re reading, Kris, let me tell you that I understand your frustration at not getting the 100 goals; indeed, you were explicitly prevented from reaching that goal by a club hierarchy that didn’t give you a minute on the pitch.
Perhaps if you hadn’t been a dressing room wide-boy and/or leaker who undermined the previous manager Brendan Rodgers might not have cast you into the outer darkness.
There’s a lesson there, if you care to learn it. I doubt that though.
Commons’ argument is really poor, you know.
He talks about the “culture shock” Howe is facing should he take the job. This is just garbage, I’m sorry to say, and has been trotted out by others. I’ve discussed it another piece, so I don’t feel that I need to do it again, but a manager who’s been in the Premier League doesn’t need to worry about feeling overwhelming pressure as the boss at Celtic Park.
He’ll take to it in no time at all.
Commons then disparaged the idea that Howe is a miracle worker.
He talks about how the club was funded by a billionaire, and then he dug out an obscure fact about net spend and how Howe’s net-spend over five years in the EPL was higher than that of Chelsea.
You know what else? It was higher than that of Liverpool and Spurs as well.
Indeed, it sat roughly in the middle of the “league table” for net spenders; eighth out of twenty.
Yet all this proves is that old adage about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.
Why does he believe that a team like Bournemouth are so high on that list, and especially in relation to major clubs like those? I’ll give him a clue; it’s not just about what you bring in but what goes out as well, and that’s why we refer to “net spend” rather than just spending.
Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool already had expensive teams; net spend is lower because they don’t need teams in constant evolution, just a tweak here and there.
They also sell players for momentous fees because they are frequent competitors in the Champions League.
Are we to be shocked that a Premier League club was spending a lot of money?
You know who was fifth on the net spend list Commons is working off? Brighton. Howe’s EPL “net spend” actually comes to a modest £26 million a year … in the most cash rich league in Europe.
Here’s something for Commons, since he spends much of the piece, and much of his “professional life” buttering up Steven Gerrard; his net spend at Ibrox over three years – in a league, let’s not forget, where most clubs don’t have a pot to piss in, isn’t a kick in the arse over £26 million. If we’re speaking comparatively that’s a net spend of gargantuan proportions.
Think Commons will question Gerrard’s managerial credentials on the back of it?
When Howe returned to Bournemouth in October 2012, they were in League One.
Three years later they were in the EPL.
By the time he left he was the longest serving manager in England’s top flight; in the years in which his team was competing in that league, the likes of Villa, Newcastle, Cardiff and others were relegated whilst his team stayed.
Commons thinks he’s being smart to suggest that Howe made some bad signings, as if every manager in world football hasn’t done the same. He thinks he’s scoring points when he talks about how the number of Celtic fans who came to hail Brendan Rodgers was larger than Bournemouth’s average attendance; he’s right, but so what?
Bournemouth are unarguably the smallest club ever to reach the English top flight.
Commons can bang on about net spend until the cows come home; Eddie Howe took a League One team to the Premiership and kept them there for years, outgunned every week, massively outspent in terms of wages and infrastructure. The very size of their ground and their average attendance shouldn’t be used to disparage what Howe did but to support it.
The EPL has 20 teams. The Championship has 24, as do the other professional leagues in the English game. So let’s talk relative size for a moment, since Commons wants to.
Bournemouth’s stadium isn’t in the top 20. We know that.
It’s not in the top 40 either.
Nor is it in the top 50.
If we’re including Wembley, Dean Court is actually the 67th biggest stadium in the country, which to me sounds like a good omen.
That’s the size of that club relative to those around it.
They are, in every way, a League One level side, with a League One level infrastructure.
Eddie Howe rose that club so far above its statute and size that it does qualify as a miracle.
Finally, Commons digs Howe over Bournemouth’s violations of English football’s financial fair play guidelines; another area where a little bit of knowledge is clearly a dangerous thing.
He talks of the Russian financier who funded the club during their rise … all of it true, and all of it grossly ignoring that we’re not talking about someone who spent Manchester City style money here but merely did – and I say this again – what Ibrox’s directors are doing right now.
Furthermore, there is no recognition that almost all of their overspend has been in wages, not transfer fees.
When they won the Championship their FFP violation was in excess of £30 million … which sounds incredibly large until you to consider that it was £60 million of spending off a £30 million income, and more than half was on salaries for players and coaches, in a league where half a dozen teams were still getting EPL parachute payments well in excess of what Bournemouth was spending and where others, like Leeds and Forest, were essentially running EPL sized clubs.
Look, I think FFP regulations are weak and should be much stronger. Everyone knows that, so I’m not arguing that Bournemouth should have been allowed to overspend … they shouldn’t. But Commons’ argument is that Eddie Howe spent his way to success, and whilst his club spent more than it earned that is just manifestly false in every way.
Even with a £30 million overspend in the English Championship his team was still massively outgunned in that league.
Even with the influx of money from the sugar-daddy that man still had to compete against sides with vastly greater resources.
When they played, and beat, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2015, their first year in the top flight, their squad cost £2.4 million.
That’s what we’re talking about here, that’s the size of the accomplishment.
Their star player that day was Harry Arter, who Howe signed from Woking, for £4000.
You are reading that number right, there are no missing zeros.
He cost Howe four grand.
That’s the kind of disparities we’re talking about here.
Steven Cook, their centre back who set up the winning goal, and with whom Celtic are now linked, was a bit more expensive; Howe signed him in League One. He cost them £150,000.
That’s about a tenth of what we spent on Marvin Compper.
You tell me who spotted the better player and got the better deal.
Commons entire article was ridiculous.
He believes that because Howe and his club spent money that the Miracle of Bournemouth wasn’t real. As I’ve demonstrated, we’re talking here about a team with a League One infrastructure and the 67th smallest stadium in England. The idea that money was spent along the way is not a great shock, unless people think that Howe is a sorcerer and that it was done by black magic.
None of this was enough to stop the LMA from naming Howe EFL Manager of the Decade.
None of it detracts from his reputation as an innovator, a tactician, a guy who plays football to a certain high standard, a manager who makes good players better … and a manager, by the way, who can spot a footballer as well, like Cook and Arter and others.
Commons would clearly have preferred that we went for bling, for a “name”, as if Eddie Howe isn’t a name.
He’s well known enough in England.
On a final note, far be it for me to suggest that a “journalist” has basically nicked the premise of someone else’s article, but Commons’ rant today reminded me an awful lot of a similarly misleading piece by Joe Ridge, of Commons’ newspaper, The Daily Mail, in January 2020 which used almost the same language to attack Howe and his record, calling it a myth.
That piece even went so far as to falsely label Maxim Demin, their owner, a billionaire, which he isn’t and which two minutes of checking would have revealed.
Both pieces are equally shoddy, and remarkably similar in style, tone and language even quoting a lot of the same facts, including the untrue ones. It’s an occupational hazard, I suppose.
I am not suggesting that Commons stole it … just that they reek of the same stale pish.
Another occupational hazard is having smaller men question your record; Howe will understand that.
Serious journalists take his accomplishments seriously. It’s when you start lowering the tone of the discussion by bringing the unserious ones to the table that you start to get nonsense like this.