Howe is understood to have earmarked his coaches at former club Bournemouth Stephen Purches and Simon Weatherstone for key roles, with the Vitality side’s current director of football Richard Hughes reported to coming too as chief scout. The fourth name linked with the Howe revolution is well-kent at Celtic Park, that man being Peter Grant. Below we profile all four:
Something of a Mr Bournemouth, the former defender earned a testimonial at the club thanks to 11 years service as a player across two spells. The 41-year-old’s associations began when he signed for them in 2000, having come through the West Ham academy. His career was ended prematurely by a double leg fracture during a 1-0 defeat at Rochdale in February 2012, and despite an various attempted comebacks, he officially announced his retirement two years later.
He immediately turned to coaching, taking over the club’s development team before progressing to the under-21s during the Eddie Howe era, who recognised his attributes in this domain by making him first-team coach in February 2017. A year later he earned his full pro licence. When Howe departed last August, he stepped up to assistant under Jason Tindall, previously the club’s no.2. Tindall’s sacking in February resulted in Jonathan Woodgate becoming manager. Despite bringing Gary O’Neil and Joe Jordan on to his coaching team, he retained the affable Purches as his next-in-command. His diligence over creating coaching drills and willingness to offer honest opinions without “ego” was cited as Woodgate as to why he continued to lean on a coach with an in-depth knowledge of the game, and the club.
A journeyman footballer who is exactly a month older than Purches, he bumped around the lower reaches of the English game as a striker and midfielder. His main stop-offs proved Boston United, Weymouth, Crawley Town and Oxford Town, before his playing days ended in 2011 following two years with Eastbourne Borough. It was then the career he had dreamed of from a young age began, as he worked alongside Howe and Tindall during their short spell at Burnley.
“I was only about 12 or 13 but that was where my passion for coaching really began and it just carried on throughout my career,” he said in an Bournemouth Echo interview after Howe enticed him to the English south coast club for the first-team coaching role in 2014; a position has occupied ever since. Confessing also that he never switched off and constantly analysed set-pieces in watching games on television. “As a player, I was always a thinker and constantly tried to help my team-mates with their technique.”
There seemed to be a bit of a will-he won’t-he, feeling about Hughes joining Howe at Celtic. This centred on several factors. Initially it was considered the 41-year-old Bournemouth director of football was keen to remain in the south coast, with the club pushing for top flight promotion – a quest that ended with Saturday’s semi-final play-off defeat to Brentford. More specifically, the former Scotland international’s present posting did not appear in the gift of Howe as he constructed his own backroom team for the move to Glasgow – Celtic not keen on the DOF/sporting director position being contingent on the continued presence of any manager and his staff.
It now appears he could be part of Howe’s coterie in taking up the chief scout role at Parkhead effectively vacated by Nicky Hammond recently, even if his official title was head of football operations. Hammond was in charge of recruitment, and this has been the domain of Hughes for the past six years at Bournemouth – as the Glasgow-born childhood Celtic supporter explained in 2019, during an interview on Bournemouth’s website.
“The role is primarily heading up the recruitment department and having a structure in place which can put players in front of Eddie and his staff, allowing them to make decisions that are going to help in the recruitment of players,” he said, the former midfielder having a six-year playing stint with the club. “Eddie has a high-pressure job that takes up so much of his time, managing a Premier League team, so you need the right people in the right places to minimise the amount of time dedicated to doing the other important parts of the job, recruitment in this case. I’m looking to fire as many good bullets as possible, that’s what my main job is.”
The garrulous Grant needs no introduction to the Celtic support, following an 11-year senior career with the club he lives and breathes between 1986 and 1997. As a coach, however, the 55-year-old has become a respected figure in the game, and boasts a wealth of experience. Not all of it fruitful, certainly, as was true when he was first-team coach to Tony Mowbray for the Englishman’s ill-fated eight months in charge at Celtic for the 2009-10 season.
He occupied the same role for Alex McLeish across his second spell at the Scotland helm, having being his faithful lieutenant at Birmingham City, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest. He was his own man at Norwich City and more recently with Alloa, ast month announcing he would be stepping down from that position subsequent to their failure to avoid relegation from the Championship.
His first steps in coaching was where he got to know Howe. The pair played together at Bournemouth between 2000 and 2002, during which time Grant became a player-coach, before being promoted to first-team coaching duties under Sean O’Driscoll. In that role he helped the then insolvency-stricken club earn promotion from the Third Division via the play-offs in 2002-03.