The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

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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PIC­TURE: Ac­tion I

GO­ING UP: Ed­die Howe cel­e­brates with Steve Cook, above, and, inset, Matt Ritc cen­tre, cel­e­brates his goal against Bury

WANTED: Nathan Byrne

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