The Livingston captain followed Howe to Lancashire when he made the move up to the English Championship in 2011 and revealed the inner workings of the dressing room when speaking to Open Goal.
Howe is the favoured candidate of the Celtic board to become the club’s next permanent manager, though the 43-year-old is currently keeping his options open with Newcastle United and Crystal Palace two possible alternative in the summer.
Celtic fans are largely delighted to see their club linked with such a name in British coaching circles after Howe led Bournemouth to the Premier League and kept them there for five seasons, though there is some concern that his managerial magic only works on the south coast after an underwhelming spell at Turf Moor over 18 months.
"The changing room was so bad in terms of drinking culture,” Bartley recalled. “They were such massive drinkers. I remember one night when we were going to a game and you could hear the sound of glass bottles hitting each other as we got off. Like, we’re playing tomorrow, man!
“There was nothing you could do with that changing room. He [Howe] tried to change things and go with a younger team, but the board wanted success right away. They wanted to get the club back to the Premier League. It’s not that easy.
“The difficulty is that a lot of them were the same age as him. When they weren’t doing what he wanted them to, he was like ‘right, you’re going’. But the thing was that a lot of them knew they were going at the end of the season, so it just went the other way.”
Another criticism of Howe came from a couple of noted former players during his second spell at Bournemouth – ex-Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson and Rangers striker Jermain Defoe – who questioned the manager’s ability to speak to older players.
“If you’ve got an opinion you must back it up on the pitch,” Bartley explained of Howe’s methods. “I think it got to the point where you wanted the old Glen Johnson or the young Jermain Defoe and they weren’t the same any more, so I think that’s where he might have struggled a bit. They’ve got the same opinions they may have had five or six years ago but they’re no longer showing it on the pitch.”
Asked when he realised that Howe was a special coach after the former full-back initially took over from Jimmy Quinn at Bournemouth, Bartley said: “Right from the first training session.
“He’d be like this is how we’re going to play on a Saturday and we’ll strip it right back to the Monday, this is how we’re going to beat them. This is their strengths. This is their weaknesses. So we’d do 11-v-11 and he’d be like this is the weakness of their left-back, so every time he gets the ball we’re going to press him this way.
“We always knew where the ball was going and we always knew who we were going to attack and how we were going to attack them.”