From that face to that club, there is so much to get excited about with the Eddie Howe return.
This season’s All or Nothing is on course to be about as interesting as quiz night round the Dyches. Offering us behind-the-scenes, access-all-areas, fly-on-the-wall footage of Conference League hopefuls Arsenal, Amazon’s flagship documentary will this year be reduced to ten episodes of very little indeed. A couple of low-calorie crises, some flickering mumble of a renaissance, and some nice young lads saying nice young things about playing football for a club that is kind of fine. It is sure to give new meaning to the word ‘airtime’. The televisual equivalent of a Ryvita sandwich. They should really call it Next to Nothing.
It could have been so different. If only they had the foresight to pick Newcastle.
Not just because the first few episodes would have been deliciously juicy Brucey-flavoured fare, drenched with exactly the kind of fan-outrage montages and bottle-throwing player strops that get us out of bed in the morning. Not just because we would have borne witness to the existential befuddlement as the news came through that the club had been bought – definitely not by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – and the playing staff slowly came to terms with the fact that Newcastle were going somewhere, and that they would most certainly not be going with them.
But because, in addition to all of that, we would have had a moment even more precious than watching Jonjo Shelvey eat his Weetabix: the return, after 464 days in the managerial wilderness, of Eddie Howe. It truly is a wonderful thing. And here, in no particular order, are five reasons why.
1) Eddie Howe’s face.
Oh, what a face it is. Those elfin features and ruddy Dickensian cheeks, that perfectly parted hair perched atop a visage so cherubic that every time you see him, you want to invite him round your mum’s for dinner, to show her once and for all that not all your pals are like Bonzo and Eggy Steve. Except – and here is the real beauty of the thing – let your gaze linger, and it soon becomes clear that it is deeper, and a little darker, than all that. The gritted teeth and the closed-mouth smile. The creases around the eyes, gouged into the skin from years of repetitive wincing. Look closer and you see a face that betrays a man just about holding it all together for the camera, liable to blow at any minute in the most spectacular fashion. A face that could light up a room. If only the room wasn’t filled with bastards who insist on asking him about defending set-pieces.
2) Eddie Howe has a BIG club
And not even banter BIG anymore. With bags of money to supplement the massive stadium and fabled one-club-city fanbase, we have to admit that Newcastle are now objectively BIG. They are about as far away as you could possibly wish to get – geographically and ontologically – from Bournemouth, and in this equation lies the potential to settle one of the great philosophical debates of the age. No-one cares about the cat, Erwin. Free will whatever, Immanuel. What we’re here to find out is whether Howe can handle the egos in the dressing room.
3) Eddie Howe now exists without numbers beside his name
Throughout these past years of plague and weirdness, the constants in our lives have been a fundamental source of comfort. Family, friends, the dog, time, University Challenge, Eddie Howe being second in the running to fill just about any vacant managerial post; as long as these were in situ, we were safe in the knowledge that whatever the world threw at us, it still turned on its axis. However, in these Covid-free, Built Back Better, post-deforestation, Brexit-bounce times, we now have no need for such humdrum predictability. So let the great world spin, man, and settle in for the age of Graham Potter.
4) Eddie Howe has been appointed by Newcastle
However much cash they may have found for themselves, and whatever Eddie himself has said about ‘perfect’ and ‘fit’ and ‘me’ and such nonsense, this simply cannot go well. Famed for his progressive passing game, Howe is about to come up against a group of players who are so pathologically unable to keep a football that they are the only team in history to record a minus possession percentage. It really is a match made in the dead of night, on some E4 game show where couples are paired on the basis of which vegetable their genitals most resemble. The Bournemouth Bielsa meets Isaac Hayden: you do the math(s).
5) Eddie Howe’s face. Again
Whilst he does seem like a genuinely lovely man, and is clearly a highly capable coach upon whom nobody would wish any ill, the prospect of what the impending catastrophe will do to his mug is simply irresistible. If he looked put-upon before, just think of the effect Joelinton will have. “Care to talk us through that miss in the second half, Eddie?” Oof. It’s almost too gorgeous to imagine. Thankfully, we’re unlikely to be waiting long to see it for ourselves.