It is hardly revelatory that in the coming days it can be expected the Englishman will become the 19th man to be appointed permanent manager of the Parkhead side. It is more than a month since it became apparent the white smoke would require Bournemouth’s season to reach its conclusion; which came with their Premier League play-off defeat to Brentford on Saturday.
A number of contractual issues – his desire to take with him two of his former coaches from the south coast club, in Stephen Purches and Simon Weatherstone, but also Bournemouth’s commitments to him personally – account for that. Meanwhile, it is almost two months since it became apparent Howe would move to Glasgow.
However, it is understood the 43-year-old wants the jigsaw pieces to fall quickly into place when he pitches up at Celtic. Not just with the make-up of his backroom staff – the club looking to synergise these arrivals with the recruitment of a sporting director – but also the comprehensive squad overhaul. Howe knows he will arrive with the onus on him to make a host of emblematic signings. He is believed to want to be able to press the button on a trio of transfer deals at the earliest possible opportunity. It is, after all, a mere nine weeks till Celtic face the opening leg of their second round Champions League qualifier.
None of the elements allowed for a quick turnaround subsequent to Neil Lennon leaving the club in the last week of February. Celtic’s major shareholder and ultimate powerbroker Dermot Desmond understood that. He has form for taking his time to secure the appointment he believes is right in the face of – understandable – supporter restlessness over perceived inactivity.
It was in the early days of February 2000 that the high-risk strategy of giving the reins to first-time manager John Barnes was considered to have failed, which led to the former Liverpool winger being unceremoniously jettisoned a mere eight months after taking charge. Then the board, headed up by chief executive Allan MacDonald, pursued Guus Hiddink and effectively had the pedigree Dutch coach tied up by early May... only for Desmond to demand to meet him before any contract was inked. When the Irishman did so and looked “into the whites of his eyes”, he was convinced he sensed Hiddink was more motivated by paydays than passion for the club, and demanded the contract offer be withdrawn. Desmond immediately switched his attention to Martin O’Neill, but it wasn’t until June 1 the deal was announced. By which time O’Neill was days away from heading to the Low Countries to spend a fortnight working for the BBC as an analyst at Euro 2000.
Time may be far from on Howe’s side to perform the daunting remedial work required to construct a team capable of overhauling a Rangers side that claimed the Premiership by an eye-watering 25-point margin. O’Neill, though, with even greater time constraints, flipped the title by presiding over a 38-point swing inside 12 months. Desmond has held his nerve again this time around, yet he can only have fingers crossed his deal-maker instincts will prove as sound as then.