Eddie Howe makes his first return to Burnley tomorrow insisting he still has no regrets about taking the reins at Turf Moor.
Howe left Bournemouth to move north in January 2011, after the departure of Brian Laws, but returned to the south coast in October last year, seven months after the sudden death of his mother Annie.
After winning promotion with the Cherries, Howe is back at Burnley, who have roared to the top of the Championship under Sean Dyche, and he is delighted at the way it has all worked out.
Howe looked ahead to tomorrow’s game: “I’m not really sure I’m looking forward to it if I’m honest, just coming back, I’m not sure how it will be.
“It’s a difficult one, there will be a different array of emotions.
“I enjoyed my time at Burnley, but the team is doing well now, which I’m really pleased to see.
“That side of it was really difficult (leaving), we didn’t ever want to walk away from something in the middle of it, but from my perspective it was something I needed to do. And the whole scenario couldn’t have gone any better really.
“We were promoted from a position that looked almost impossible, and Burnley, this season, are top of the league in a competitive Championship, and deservedly so.
“They are playing really well, and I have to say congratulations to Sean and his staff and players, they are doing fantastically well.
“But all we are interested in is the three points, it’s not about us coming back, we’ll just try and win the game, which would be an important three points for us.
“Turf Moor can really get behind the team though, and it will be a difficult game.
“You don’t have the results they have had without being a really good side, and getting results on a consistent basis. I watched the QPR game myself and was very impressed, they were very disciplined and hard to break down.”
Howe’s comments in the Guardian on the eve of the season offended some Clarets supporters, saying: “I think I probably should have stayed [at Bournemouth], looking back it was too early for me to go.
“I’d been managing for 18 months but when you’re presented with opportunities it’s sometimes difficult to say no. I felt I was too young for offers from Peterborough and Southampton, I had only been in the job six months and thought I needed to stay.
“Then came Crystal Palace, Charlton and Burnley all at the same time and that dragged on a bit. I felt if I turned down another one I would be labelled with a lack of ambition or being too comfortable.
“It was really because of other people that I took the job to prove that I could do it, picking the one that I believed was the most difficult and furthest away.”
But he feels some of those quotes were slightly misconstrued: “I still have no regrets about making the move whatsoever, it was really good for me to make the move.
“Hopefully the people of Burnley don’t feel too negatively towards me, we did a really honest job and worked really hard for the club.
“We didn’t ultimately get the success we wanted - we didn’t get into the top six and weren’t as consistent as we wanted to be, but it was a difficult job.
“There were a lot of changes after we arrived, in personnel - we had to break up the team that got into the Premier League, which was really difficult and demanding, while reducing the wage bill, and I’m pleased to see the club top of the Championship and doing really well.”
Howe led Burnley to eighth place in 2010/11 and 13th the following campaign, but his time at the club is probably best measured by the players he signed.
While there were mistakes in that department - which manager doesn’t slip up in the transfer market from time to time? - Howe’s first signing was Charlie Austin, and of the current side, he also brought in captain Jason Shackell, Kieran Trippier, Ben Mee, 22-goal strike pair Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, as well as the likes of Junior Stanislas, Brian Stock, Danny Lafferty and Keith Treacy, who remain important members of the squad. Howe tried to take Ings back to Bournemouth in the summer, and he is delighted to see the 21-year-old fulfilling his potential: “I think a few eyebrows were raised when we paid £1m for Danny, but it was a no brainer for me, we had worked with him and knew what he was capable of.
“The only unfortunate thing was that he got injured straight away and had a long spell out, and then just before the start of last season we lost him again.
“It was a real blow. We were going to build the team around him.
“But it’s pleasing from his perspective that he has stayed fit and is showing everyone what he is all about.
“We always had the belief he was going to be a top player at the highest level.
“For me, very few players can do everything as a striker, he has good, quick feet, he’s a good finisher, he’s good in the air and very intelligent.
“He has all the attributes you need to play at the very top, it’s just a case of him staying fit.
“There are real comparisons with Jay Rodriguez, they are very similar.
“I likened him to Jay, they are both intelligent, have very good technique and are quick.
“I was really pleased to see him get his England Under 21 call-up, I don’t think people realise the journey Danny has been through to get to that level.
“He was out with a stomach problem at Bournemouth and he was offered him a three-month contract, so he had to earn it the hard way.”
Vokes struggled for game time under Howe, but he is pleased to see the amiable Wales striker blossoming: “Vokesey has had it difficult as well, we really liked him but he was behind Jay, Charlie Austin, Ingsy, Martin Paterson, who are all really good strikers.
“But he has grasped his opportunity and has developed a really good partnership with Ingsy. They are scoring a lot of goals, and they deserve the success that has come their way.
“It’s great to see two Bournemouth lads doing so well.”
Shackell was another key target, who has emerged as a vital component of Dyche’s table-toppers, and Howe added: “We felt we needed a real leader and we chased Shacks for two summers until we came to sign him.
“We really pushed for him and played a waiting game, and it was a lot of money out of our budget, but we felt he was so important, and he has proved what a top player he is.”
Bournemouth come to Turf Moor without a win in seven league games, but, in 15th, they are above the likes of Bolton, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City, and Howe is encouraged: “We’ve not done too badly, we’ve had a tough run of fixtures, Leicester away, Forest away, Bolton at home.
“We decided to stick with the majority of the squad that got us up, while trying to bring in some affordable players, but the problem was, early season, we had a lot of injuries, and we still have six or seven injured.
“But we added some experience, Elliott Ward and Ian Harte, and they have been good signings for us, they have been there and done it, and it was important to bring types like that in.
“We started the season with the aim of consolidating, and going on to become established at this level, and the squad has improved since the start of the season.
“Hopefully we can continue to improve and see what happens.
“We’ve scored in every game bar Bolton on Saturday, and have been in every game for large parts, even the games where we have had heavy defeats. “I’m pleased with the progress, but Saturday will be a very tough test.”
Howe isn’t the only one making a return to Turf Moor, with wide man Marc Pugh playing against the Clarets for the first time since leaving the club without making a competitive appearance in 2006: “Pughy has that historical connection with Burnley, he is always talking about the club, looking for their results, and he’ll have a lot of family there so it should be a big game for him.”