There was no way for Celtic to bring back Brendan Rodgers. The best they could strive for was a chip off the old block. And in Eddie Howe, they’ve found a manager cast from the same mold.
As boss of Burnley, Howe once accepted an invitation from Rodgers to travel to Liverpool and spend a couple of days watching how he did things.
The training sessions were an eye opener. And when the work was done, the pearls of advice proved priceless.
Eddie Howe is in talks to become the next manager of Celtic to replace Neil Lennon
In Howe they would have someone cut from the same mold as former boss Brendan Rodgers
‘You need people to help you along the way,’ Howe told the Coaches Voice website. ‘It’s a tough lonely job at times and Brendan was brilliant.’
Lessons were learned. Notes were compared. The two men hit it off and, since then, it feels at times as if they’re reading lines from the same script.
Instance the chapter on the former Bournemouth boss in Michael Calvin’s excellent book Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager.
‘If I wasn’t doing this, what else could I do to make a mark in society?’ asks Howe.
‘You’re only on the planet once as far as we know, and you want to try and do something that affects people’s lives.
‘I want to be able to look back and say: “You achieved something memorable”.’
Read that back and it could almost be Brendan Rodgers speaking. Same voice, different accent.
Both men are at their desk before the sun comes up.
They demand absolute commitment from their players. And show a willingness to think out of the box.
Brendan Rodgers enjoyed a highly successful spell at Celtic before he left to join Leicester
They’ve both known how it feels to be the coming man of English football.
And when the volcano blew up, it was Celtic who reached out and offered a helping hand…
A hard-nosed billionaire, Dermot Desmond did none of this because he’s an old socialist at heart.
In return for giving Rodgers and Howe a route back into football management, Celtic’s major shareholder demands a return.
Losing the league to Rangers this season hit hard. And, with the lure of an automatic place in the Champions League open to next season’s champions, Desmond needs the closest thing to another Brendan Rodgers he can find. In the current market, Eddie Howe is the best fit.
The trouble is that success in Glasgow isn’t a simple question of work rate or ability or intelligence. It’s a test of a man’s character. A measure of how easily he can cope with being poked and prodded and having his personal space violated.
The late Tommy Burns once observed that working for Celtic or Rangers means that one half of the city hates you and the other thinks it owns you.
A close friend of Burns from their Reading days, Rodgers knew all this before he arrived.
He also arrived with a knowledge of what it took to manage in a tough working-class northern city where football assumes the status of a religion.
When he pitched up at Celtic to a welcoming committee of 13,000, it felt like Sinatra hitting the comeback trail.
Contrast that with Howe, a natural introvert from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, who once described himself as the ‘shy one in the corner’.
‘I never wanted to be the centre of attention and that didn’t change when I became a footballer,’ he once said.
‘I didn’t really chase the limelight, so that’s why I felt football management probably wouldn’t be for me. You can’t be an introvert in the role.’
Coaching brought him out of himself. Planning sessions, drawing up tactics, challenging old stereotypes and engaging with players peeled off a layer and revealed a new man underneath.
The first time the Lennoxtown gates slide shut behind him at 6.30am, Eddie Howe will feel safe and comfortable in an environment he knows well.
It’s when the gates open up at 5pm and the intrusion begins that he leaves his comfort zone.
Brendan Rodgers once told of being caught in the middle of traffic in the Clyde Tunnel. The driver’s door of the car in front opened up and a man in a blue shirt emerged. According to the Gospel of St Brodge, the man approached his car, announced he was a Rangers fan and thanked him profusely for all he was doing for the game in Scotland.
Rodgers, you suspect, revelled in that stuff. It was life affirming.
Dermot Desmond will demand a return after Celtic fell behind Rangers in the title-fight
In contrast, Howe’s temperament seems less suited to life in a goldfish bowl where fans don’t always come bearing garlands.
Studious and conscientious at school, he’ll have done his homework.
When Celtic stepped up their interest, you can bet your last pound Rodgers was one of the first calls on his list.
The Leicester boss would have urged him to make sure Peter Lawwell was definitely retiring.
With Odsonne Edouard, Kris Ajer, Ryan Christie, Olivier Ntcham and a raft of loan signings heading out the door, he’d have told him to secure promises on future transfer funds.
Most of all, he’d have told him to make sure he secures a house with electronic gates well away from the Glasgow glare.
Scotland’s largest city has always had a loose grasp on the concept of social distancing.
For the men who take charge of Celtic and Rangers, the simple act of sticking petrol in the car becomes an ordeal.
Earning £30k a week helps to sweeten a bitter pill. It’s hardly Beirut we’re talking here.
Howe would face increased scrutiny with the demands of managing the Scottish team
Steven Gerrard has shown it can be done. Brendan Rodgers did the same.
The difference is that Gerrard and Rodgers were born to take centre stage at big football clubs.
They revel and thrive in the demands and the expectations and the spotlight.
By his own admission, Eddie Howe has always been less comfortable with that side of things.
Offered the job as caretaker manager of Bournemouth at the age of 31, Howe feared he was just too shy to be a front man.
Sitting 91st out of 92 clubs after a 17-point penalty for financial irregularities, raw talent kicked in. Within seven years, after returning to Bournemouth following a spell in charge of Burnley, he took the south-coast club to the promised land of the English Premier League and kept them there for five seasons.
But no one in their right mind would compare the intensity and demands of Bournemouth to what lies in wait in Glasgow.
The talkSPORT shock jocks are already out with the fishing rods. Jason Cundy, a man whose sat nav cuts out north of Watford, compares the Scottish title to winning the egg-and-spoon race and claims Howe would have had a bigger challenge at Crystal Palace.
But every time Roy Hodgson loses two games in a row, there are no fans gathered outside the ground screaming for his head.
Contrast that with Celtic, a club where the very last place the manager wants to be after back-to-back defeats is stuck in a traffic jam slap bang in the middle of the Clyde Tunnel.