SWINDON AIMING TO HANG ON TO BYRNE
SWINDON have bolstered their play-off hopes by agreeing a deal to sign Nathan Byrne on for three-years, and boss Kevin MacDonald believes the former Spurs right-back is only going to get better.
Robins chairman Jed McCrory confirmed the 20year-old would remain at the County Ground beyond his current loan deal and he is reportedly going to join on a long-term contract.
“It would be great because he’s done very, very well here, he’s a good footballer and he’s only going to improve,” said MacDonald.
And Byrne could be benefitting from Swindon’s new training complex if plans to switch from the current Liddington base to a new Beversbrook facility are given the go-ahead.
“It’s been mentioned to me that it could happen by Mark Isaacs, our operations manager,” added MacDonald.
“It’s a good idea that they would have a proper training ground. If that comes to fruition then that would be great.
“I think the most important thing for me is to concentrate on the footballing side. If other people want to do that then that’s great.
“It’s not a decision that I can make because I’m not the chairman or owner.”
MAGICIAN? Sorcerer? After transforming Bournemouth from relegation battlers into Championship newboys, it’s tempting to think Eddie Howe is endowed with mystical powers.
Yet the 35-year-old, the league’s second-youngest manager but a veteran of five years, three divisions and two promotions, is far too pragmatic for that.
“It’s certainly not magic,” laughs Howe, who took over with his assistant Jason Tindall when the Cherries were 21st in League One. “When we came back here, we knew straightaway that we had a really talented squad. It was just about giving them a clear aim and getting them to play as a team. Thankfully they’ve responded.
“I genuinely wasn’t thinking anything about promotion. My first thought was to get the team out of the relegation zone. It was: ‘Let’s see if we can win a few games and scramble into mid-table’.
“Later, me and Jason did discuss the final day.Tranmere were top at the time and we said to ourselves: ‘If we can get a result there and sneak into the play-offs, we’ll take that’.
“So to go there with promotion in the bag is a big surprise, to ourselves as much as anyone.”
When Howe returned to Bournemouth in October, few expected the former Cherries centre-back to emulate the remarkable success of his first stint at Dean Court.
Thrust into the dugout at the age of 30, the baby-faced rookie overcame administration, transfer embargoes and a 17-point deduction to save Bournemouth from the Conference.
A year later, under similarly horrendous financial constraints, he won promotion to League One.
By the time Howe, by then a target for every Championship club, left to join Burnley in January 2011, the Cherries were second in the third tier. For both parties, the separation proved unfulfilling. Bournemouth missed out on promotion and subsequently struggled under first Lee Bradbury and then Paul Groves. Howe and Tindall, meanwhile, struggled to reinvigorate a Burnley side still smarting from relegation from the Premier League.
When he left with the Clarets in 16th place, the mood among fans could best be described as ambivalent.
“That’s probably fair,” he admits.“And that’s pretty much my view on it too. Though obviously I know a lot more about the ins and outs.
“We brought in £6m in transfer fees, cut the wage bill by 40 per cent.We consistently sold our best players. We also had an ageing squad when we arrived and cut the average age by about four years.
“We improved the training ground, improved the infrastructure. We had to start again on many fronts and that is a difficult thing to do when you’re competing against clubs with much bigger budgets than you.
“It was a testing time and we by no means got the success we wanted. We wanted to break into the top six and it never happened. But sometimes you find out more about the way you work when you don’t set the world alight.
“The experience – having no reputation to fall back on and a big, demanding crowd – was invaluable and the lads here will hopefully tell you that I’m better at my job.”
Howe’s efforts to settle in the north west were dealt a hammer blow when his mum died in March 2011, essentially forcing him into a return south.
“Taking football out of the equation, I found that period very difficult,” he says.“It made it hard to focus on the job. And of course there will always be a part of me that wonders what might have happened if we’d stayed.
“We did need longer to get things right. But that’s life and it’s turned out to be a good decision.” The very with own endi plag man Matt
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GOING UP: Eddie Howe celebrates with Steve Cook, above, and, inset, Matt Ritc centre, celebrates his goal against Bury
WANTED: Nathan Byrne