A return to management is looming for Eddie Howe, with the former Bournemouth boss seemingly set to be unveiled at Celtic.
Both Roy Keane and Jesse Marsch have been linked with the vacant position in recent weeks, but Howe appears to be the clear frontrunner to take the hotseat.
The 43 year old began life as Bournemouth boss back in January 2009, when his Cherries side – then languishing at the foot of League Two – lost 2-1 at Darlington.
Fast forward six years and Howe – via an 18-month stint in charge at Burnley – had overseen an astonishing ascent through the English footballing pyramid to clinch promotion to the Premier League.
His brand of attacking possession-based football won many plaudits throughout Bournemouth’s five-year stay in the top flight, seeing him touted as Arsene Wenger’s potential replacement at Arsenal and even with the England job back in 2016, before Sam Allardyce’s ill-fated one-game reign.
The Cherries’ relegation last season saw Howe step aside and end his long association with the South Coast club.
His stock has undoubtedly fallen following Bournemouth’s stagnation as a Premier League side and he will hope a move to Celtic Park will help rebuild his reputation.
Many have drawn a parallel to when Brendan Rodgers arrived in Glasgow back in 2016. Rodgers enjoyed incredible domestic success before moving to Leicester City three years later, where he has established the Foxes in the Premier League’s top four.
However, a major difference is Howe will be walking into a Celtic side in serious flux.
Having seen Steven Gerrard’s Rangers clinch the title in emphatic style and end hopes of a historic ten in a row, Neil Lennon left the club in February with the Bhoys a whopping 18 points behind their arch-rivals.
A turbulent year on the pitch has also been matched off it, with a controversial mid-season trip to Dubai – whilst the rest of Scotland was in lockdown – invoking the wrath of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Club CEO Peter Lawwell has since announced his retirement and will be replaced by former chief of Scottish Rugby Dominic McKay, whilst club legend Scott Brown is leaving for a player/coach role at Aberdeen as a new era is well and truly ushered in.
Star striker Odsonne Edouard looks set to depart in the summer amid Premier League interest, the frontman being heavily linked with a reunion with Rodgers at Leicester. Defender Kristoffer Ajer is another that appears set to move away.
Both would generate significant funds for Howe to invest in a squad that will likely see a number of loan signings return to their parent clubs; including Irish international Shane Duffy and influential winger Mohamed Elyounoussi.
One criticism levelled at Howe towards the end of his Bournemouth reign was his recruitment however, as a number of big-money signings failed to deliver and contributed to the club’s decline.
Liverpool would have been laughing all the way to the bank with the combined £40 million they received for Jordan Ibe, Brad Smith and Dominic Solanke, whilst Colombian international Jefferson Lerma – brought in for a record £25 million from Levante – has also largely failed to justify his price tag.
It would be wrong though to overly criticise Howe for some dubious signings considering the overall job he did on the South Coast, and given the serious rebuild that’s in order at Celtic Park, a coach noted for his attention to detail and meticulous planning would seem a comfortable fit.
Many who have worked with Howe talk about his man-management skills, and how he looks to develop his players.
One shining light for Celtic this year has been the form of midfielder David Turnbull and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to flourish under Howe’s tutelage.
Another prodigious young talent, Karamoko Dembele, is due to be out of contract in the summer, but the 18-year-old winger could be swayed to stay by the prospect of working with a manager who places great faith in both youth and his wide-men.
The remit when in charge of Celtic is pretty simple. Win. With the mammoth task ahead though, large sections of Celtic’s support would simply settle for some progress, unity and passion. All of which have been sorely lacking this season.
Given time and patience, Howe could easily emulate Brendan Rodgers and put himself in the shop window for a return to the Premier League. Celtic fans will hope the misery of the past twelve months can be banished and Howe can bring back the good times to Paradise.
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