Eddie Howe has left Bournemouth by mutual consent following conversations with the club’s hierarchy over the past 24 hours, marking the end of an era having overseen an extraordinary rise from League Two to the Premier League.
The 42-year-old, who was the country’s longest-serving manager, led the club to the top flight against all odds having first taken caretaker charge more than a decade ago. But his 25-year association with the club as a player and then manager, across two spells, has come to an end following relegation into the Championship.
Players and staff are understood to have been shocked by the decision, unaware of his departure until it was announced last night. Jason Tindall, Howe’s long-term assistant manager, will take interim charge.
In an open letter to supporters, Howe said the decision was in the best interests of the club and expressed “immense pride” at the journey he has shared with supporters, having first taken charge in 2009 with the club 91st in the league pyramid and in danger of dropping into non-league.
Howe led Bournemouth to the Championship title in 2015 before guiding the club to an unprecedented five-year stay in the Premier League, but said it is “the right time for the club to have a change”.
Howe, who last month hinted he might leave after managing more than 450 matches, said he plans to spend a period away from football to enjoy some time with his family before beginning “the next chapter in my life”.
He had a year remaining on his contract at Bournemouth and had been in talks with the club’s board of directors, including the Russian owner, Maxim Demin, and the chief executive, Neill Blake after relegation was confirmed last weekend before coming to an amicable decision on Saturday evening.
Demin this week released a statement clarifying the club’s intentions to return to the Premier League at the first attempt, saying he was “looking to the future and ensuring that we are a stronger and better club for this experience”.
Those words seemed encouraging given Howe’s close relationship with Demin and how he had raised the importance of all parties sharing the same vision going forward. But, for the first time since 2012, when Howe returned from Burnley, Bournemouth are now searching for a new manager.
Last year Howe was awarded the freedom of Bournemouth – an accolade that entitles recipients to a reserved seat at council meetings and church services – as a nod to his achievements at taking the club from the brink of liquidation to the Premier League inside six years.
At the time, the council leader, John Beesley, spoke of Bournemouth’s “eternal fondness and admiration” for Howe, who also played more than 250 times for the club.
On Saturday Howe paid tribute to Bournemouth supporters, saying “words will never be able to do true justice to the connection and feeling I have towards you all”. He added: “You helped the club survive in its darkest hour and deserve every success. I now join you as a Bournemouth supporter and will be willing the club on in what I am sure will be a successful future.”
Blake, the Bournemouth chief executive, hailed Howe as a Bournemouth “legend”. He added: “Eddie Howe is synonymous with this football club, both as a player and a manager, and that will never change.
“He is quite simply an AFC Bournemouth legend, having helped transform the identity and history of the club. Myself, our owner Maxim Demin and the board’s gratitude and appreciation for Eddie’s achievements cannot and will never be underestimated.”
In recent days even those closest to Howe were unsure on which direction he would head in but, despite the uncertainty, there was a quiet confidence that he would see out his contract, particularly in the wake of Demin’s statement released on Wednesday. Since then Bournemouth have agreed to sell Nathan Aké for £41m but they are determined to hold on to other key assets, with only forwards Joshua King, who has entered the final year of his contract, and Callum Wilson, the club’s highest-earner, almost certain to depart.