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Perrett's Verdict: Cherries 2 Leyton Orient 0
CHERRIES supporters probably could not care less whether Eddie Howe dresses like Fred Astaire, Robert Redford or Robbie Williams. They just want to be entertained.
Resplendent in sharp suits, Howe and Jason Tindall received a heroes’ welcome when they were unveiled as the club’s new management team at Goldsands Stadium yesterday.
Arguably the most successful pairing in the club’s recent history, Howe and Tindall then looked on from chairman Eddie Mitchell’s executive box, their mere presence inspiring players and fans alike as Cherries recorded their first home win of the season.
They have been tasked with reviving the club’s fortunes and will swap their collars and ties for tracksuits when they take their places in the dugout for the visit of unbeaten League One leaders Tranmere in five days.
And although the occasion will be similar to when they were appointed first time round – with Cherries hosting League Two table-toppers Wycombe in January 2009 – the circumstances will be very different.
Cast adrift with Luton at the foot of the basement division, Cherries’ Football League status had been hanging by a thread when the rookies were handed the reins on a permanent basis, the brainchild of director Adam Murry.
The rest, as they say, is history, with Howe, Tindall and their modestly-assembled squad carving their names indelibly in the club’s record books by firstly staving off relegation and then winning promotion just 12 months later.
Murry’s decision to appoint Howe will go down as one of the greatest masterstrokes ever pulled off in the Dean Court board room. By enticing him back, Mitchell also deserves praise for orchestrating a modern-day miracle.
When the Daily Echo exclusively revealed Howe had been the club’s first choice to replace Paul Groves just hours after he had been relieved of his duties, the story was met with incredulity, scepticism, excitement and anticipation.
BBC Radio Solent sports reporter Kris Temple said he would commentate on a Cherries game dressed as Elvis Presley if either Howe or Harry Redknapp, another of the club’s famous sons, were to take on the position.
Since Howe’s appointment, the voice of local radio has been trying to locate suitable attire from a fancy dress shop and will perhaps consider a rendition of The King’s classic I Just Can’t Help Believin’ when he takes to the airwaves.
In his defence, not too many Cherries followers thought Mitchell and co-owner Maxim Demin would be able to persuade Howe to up sticks from Burnley and drop down from the Championship back into League One.
However, the fact they have has given success-starved supporters genuine hope that a season which started so dismally and appeared to be heading for disaster could be transformed into one to remember.
And while Howe’s return will doubtless have come at a cost, it should prove to be a small price to pay as he will ensure plummeting attendances and mind-numbingly tedious football matches will be things of the past.
Howe knows he is taking on a very different club to the one he left behind 21 months ago. A wage cap, a small squad, a second-to-none team spirit, an against-all-odds mentality and low expectations have all disappeared.
While an injection of funds has seen the stadium and the surrounding area transformed, on the pitch, Cherries have been unable to live up to their new billing as the Manchester City of League One.
A fortnight is certainly a long time in football, as Cherries’ past two home games have shown. Trailing 1-0 to Walsall following a drab first half, abuse poured from the stands, while an angry protest took place after the final whistle.
Fast forward 14 days and another uneventful opening period was met with mooted applause before jubilant scenes and wild celebrations greeted the final whistle after Cherries had stopped the rot with victory over Orient.
With caretaker-boss Dennis Rofe taking charge for the final time, there was a mix of Groves and Lee Bradbury about Cherries’ performance, the two previous managers who failed to come anywhere near matching Howe’s achievements.
There was total control but not a hint of penetration during the first half before the second period saw Cherries embark on a gung-ho policy of attack which paid dividends thanks more to luck than judgment.
Cherries supporters want to see wingers taking on defenders and whipping in dangerous crosses. They want to see strikers hungry for goals. They want to see midfielders running until they can run no more and defenders defending as if their lives depended on it. And they want to see it more often than not and not just in glimpses, as they did under both Bradbury and Groves.
For a couple of minutes against Orient, it was like the old days. The North Stand rocked as Cherries netted twice in front of them. Lewis Grabban probably got the final touch to a Simon Francis corner to open the scoring before Marc Pugh seized on some defensive haphazardness to double the score.
Oh Eddie Howe…Eddie, Eddie, Eddie Howe – how you have been missed.