Scottish Daily Mail
Howe’s horror show at Toon proves Celtic dodged bullet
EDDIE HOWE spent the best part of three months toying with the idea of whether or not to take the Celtic job last year.
It became an embarrassing episode. A botched pursuit from which neither Howe nor the club emerged with much credit.
Yet, the way things are going, Howe’s time in charge of Newcastle United might struggle to even make it as far as the three-month mark.
How ironic that he spent longer in negotiations with Celtic than it has taken for some fans to start asking serious questions of him at St James’ Park.
Howe took over in early November and his appointment as the successor to Steve Bruce was met with almost unanimous approval by Newcastle fans.
But any improvement since then has been pretty much non-existent. Newcastle have only won once in nine games in all competitions under their new boss — a 1-0 home victory over Burnley in the Premier League.
The FA Cup defeat at home to League One Cambridge United at the weekend was a new low — and a humiliation which has already sounded the alarm bells for some Newcastle fans.
I’m sure there were plenty of Celtic supporters sniggering as they watched the highlights on
Saturday night — and who can blame them?
Howe was offered the Celtic job on a plate. The club bent over backwards to try and accommodate him and provide him with all he needed.
But he knocked it back largely on the basis that the make-up of his backroom and scouting team wasn’t quite what he wanted. Or, in other words, he bottled it.
Contrast that with the man who eventually took the job. Ange Postecoglou has gone in to Celtic without any of his own coaching or backroom staff and picked the club up off its knees.
There are parallels to be drawn here. Some people will say that Howe inherited a basket case of a club and that he deserves more time to turn it around.
They will argue that the squad left behind by Bruce was a mess and in dire need of improvement in near enough every department.
Yet, you could say the exact same thing about Celtic last summer when Postecoglou walked through the door.
In fact, I would actually argue that Celtic were in an even worse state last summer than Newcastle were when Howe took charge a couple of months ago.
But Postecoglou has found a way of making it work. He has galvanised an entire football club and won the hearts of a fanbase which had become disillusioned.
Even accounting for the fact that the squad needs major surgery, Newcastle and Howe can have no excuses about losing to a League One outfit.
They actually had a strong side out on Saturday, full of first-team regulars like Fabian Schar, Matt Ritchie, Ryan Fraser, Jonjo Shelvey and Allan Saint-Maximin.
That’s a team with more than enough talent and ability to be seeing off the likes of Cambridge United at home.
Newcastle also had Kieran Trippier in the team after his £12million arrival from Atletico Madrid last week.
But that actually raises another question. Are the club really showing enough urgency or ambition in their fight against relegation?
Aston Villa, for instance, went out and signed a genuine megastar in Philippe Coutinho. This is a boy who was among the very best players in world football not all that long ago.
Isn’t that the sort of signing Newcastle were expecting to make? After all, they are now the world’s richest club. Instead, they are signing England’s third-choice right-back.
The Coutinho signing shows the pulling power of Steven Gerrard. If Eddie Howe is in charge at Villa Park, that deal simply doesn’t happen.
THIS is where the problem lies with Howe. In these pages last year, I wrote that I did not believe him to be the Messiah that some people were making him out to be.
I looked at the words of Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson and tried to understand what sort of a manager Howe might be.
Defoe had a well-publicised falling out during their time together at Bournemouth. Speaking about their time together, he said: ‘I didn’t really have a relationship with the manager (Howe).
‘I was closer to (assistant) Jason Tindall. I just felt like the manager... he probably didn’t know how to manage me for whatever reason.’
In an interview in the summer of 2020, as Bournemouth headed for relegation, former Liverpool and England defender Johnson raised similar concerns.
Johnson said: ‘For me, it seems that Eddie Howe has got a certain mentality or philosophy that only works with lower-league players.
‘Eddie had Jermain Defoe, Asmir Begovic and Sylvain Distin, three well-established Premier League players with a lot of experience. I know those three, I played with them.
‘They are the sort of players Bournemouth need to help them stay in the league, but every one of them fell out with Eddie.’
The accusation against Howe is that while he might be a gifted coach who can improve players from the lower leagues, he struggles to deal with big-time players.
He struggles to manage players who have played at the very top level. That’s not to say big-time Charlies or egos, but just players who maybe need a bit more man-management.
In that respect, he’s in the wrong job at Newcastle. They are looking to assemble a galaxy of footballing superstars under their new Saudi owners, so long as they don’t get relegated first.
But Celtic fans must now look back on the events of last year with a grin. As Howe toils to make any sort of impact at Newcastle, it looks like they dodged a bullet.
And a very expensive bullet at that, given the size of the wage packet which I heard had been offered to Howe.
Listen, maybe he would have done well in Glasgow. Ultimately, we’ll never know. But, if he had taken the job, there would have been no Kyogo and no Angeball.
Right now, if offered the choice between Howe and Postecoglou, there isn’t a Celtic supporter in the land who wouldn’t choose Big Ange all day long.