DANNY Ings and Sam Vokes have made a name for themselves this season. “Homework” for opposition managers centres around the 40-goal duo.
But if there’s one rival boss who has a long-standing lowdown on the Championship’s most feared strike pair, it’s Eddie Howe.
The Bournemouth boss worked with both at Dean Court.
Vokes left before he became manager in January 2009, but Howe was involved in the discussions about the striker’s sale to Wolves.
It was a snip at £300,000. The club wanted more and felt the player warranted it but their hand was forced by dire straits and that money kept the Cherries’ head above water for a while.
Howe was later instrumental in Ings joining and then leaving Bournemouth, signing him for Burnley in his first summer as Clarets boss.
After returning to the south coast 14 months later it’s a decision that he regrets now.
He tried to forge a reunion with a bid for the striker last summer.
But he is pleased to see the pair pushing for the Premier League with his old club.
“I’d be lying if I said I saw them as a nailed-on partnership that would score the goals they have.
“I don’t think you can foresee that until they play together and are paired up.
“But it helps that as individuals certainly they are very good players, and they do complement each other.
“Sam’s strength and aerial presence is an asset, but with that he is really good technically, holding the ball up and linking play.
“He’s mobile and has great feet – much more than your stereotypical targetman.
“Before he signed for Burnley he had a number of moves and had seen his career stall because he hadn’t found a permanent home.
“Now he’s got that he’s shown what a good player he is.
“He brings the best out in Danny, who in tight situations has great feet and has developed a ruthless side with his scoring.
“I don’t think there’s a limit to what either can achieve this season, and beyond.”
Although Clarets boss Sean Dyche isn’t encouraging talk of promotion within the camp, their longevity at the top end of the Championship has made the prospects impossible to ignore.
“I think Burnley can go all the way,” said Howe.
“It will be incredibly difficult because there are a number of good teams and everyone will want to get there. It’s hard to say what will happen.
“But Burnley have been up there for the duration and everyone now knows they are a force to be reckoned with.
“I’m sure it will go down to the wire though, like it does most seasons.”
Howe had a taste of what Premier League life would be like when Bournemouth hosted Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Although it ended in a 2-0 fourth round defeat, the Cherries gave a good account of themselves, and Howe earned glowing praise from his opposite number – Reds boss Brendan Rodgers.
“It is coaches like Eddie Howe who will take the game forward in this country because they believe in a way of working and they have a philosophy,” said former Swansea boss Rodgers.
“Bournemouth are a very good side and I give credit to them first of all. Eddie is similar to myself in terms of the philosophy of football.
“It is not easy when you’re a young manager to stick your head out to get your teams to play and pass the ball but he certainly does that.”
Howe was humbled by the recognition.
“It was nice of Brendan. He didn’t have to say that but he sees, hopefully, what we’re trying to build here, our style of football and similarities with what he did at Swansea.
“That’s what we were trying to implement at Burnley.
“We wanted to try to improve players and we were hands-on coaching wise.
“Brendan, for me, is someone I want to emulate.”
Howe is pleased with the way his players adapted to that cup situation, but specifically to life in the Championship, and credits his time at Turf Moor for allowing him to help his players in that process.
“Any experience you have as a manager, whether good or bad, is something you can learn from,” he said.
“You learn a great deal from the tougher times, and when you reflect that’s when you improve.
“Burnley was an enjoyable time and a tough spell. It was difficult to try to build a new team.
“It wasn’t a surprise to us because when we went in we were briefed that it was partly why we were the ones chosen to go in, with our different, I suppose youthful eyes, to change the club.
“That’s what was put to us. That was the vision that was sold to us.
“We had to cut costs, sell players, reduce wage bills. You have to start again and we had a free reign to build a new team.”
Ings and Vokes were key components in that transition, and will return to where it all started for them tomorrow.
“Sam was here during the dark days when the club was on its knees,” Howe explained.
“He was a 16/17-year-old when he came into the team and he did really well.
“He moved pretty quickly and was sold for cheap money, but the club had no choice because of the situation we were in.
“That money was priceless. I was reserve team manager at the time but I had conversations when Wolves came in for him.
“We were desperate not to sell but that money was crucial in keeping the club going for a couple of money.
“Danny was just starting his career. We signed him (for Burnley) and looking back on that we regret that now!,” Howe smiled, adding: “It will be a good day for them.
“I hope, and I’m sure, the Bournemouth fans recognise the job they did.”
Of his own reunion with his old club, Howe added: “I’m looking forward to it – looking forward to coming up against a very good team.
“Before the first game I said there’s no ill feeling from us.
“We want Bournemouth to do well first and foremost, but my second wish is for Burnley to win.”
Just not tomorrow.