David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘AFC Bournemouth’ Category

Cautious Optimism

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

EH

The start to Bournemouth’s maiden Championship season has been anything but dull. Things started off well with a home win to Charlton, followed by conceding 11 goals in consecutive away games with another home win against Wigan sandwiched between. Thankfully though the team seems to be learning as it goes, curing the away day illnesses last weekend with a well earned 1-0 win at Doncaster. Despite also losing 2-1 to Watford in the first round of the Capital One Cup, the performance was vastly improved compared to the 6-1 drubbing handed to Bournemouth by the same club only a week earlier.

The first month back in the second flight of English football has been a mixed one then, but the cautious optimism that many Cherries’ fans had at the beginning of the season is continuing. Going into the international break, Bournemouth currently sit 6th in the league, a position which the club can only be ecstatic with. At the beginning of the season if you had offered manager Eddie Howe a finish of 21st by virtue of 1 goal better goal difference than 22nd, he and the majority of fans would have bitten your hand off. This is probably still the case for many associated with the club, but the first month of the campaign has given many reasons to believe that a higher finish in the table is more than attainable.

The Championship is a notoriously tight league, demonstrated by the fact that only 14 points separated Leicester in 6th and Peterborough in 22nd last year. Compare this to the Premier League a season ago, where Arsenal in 4th finished a massive 37 points above Wigan in the final relegation spot. What this all means is that Bournemouth can set their sights higher than merely scraping survival by the skin of their teeth, with a solid mid-table finish still a realistic goal. Late season surges from Bolton and Charlton last season saw them finish much higher up than it looked like they may at one point and Bournemouth can take inspiration particularly from the latter as it was also their first year back in the Championship after promotion from League 1.

Events off the pitch will have also boosted expectations for the south coast club this year because the cash has well and truly been splashed since the end of the promotion campaign. The fourth stand of the Dean Court stadium has finally been completed, giving Bournemouth a home with four stands for the first time in 12 years and boosting the capacity by around 2,000 to allow for the increased crowds that playing in the Championship will bring. The stand was completed during pre-season just in time for a match for against a little old club known as Real Madrid. Bournemouth paid the Spanish giants a cool £1,000,000 for the privilege of playing against them in the hope that it could be the start of a relationship between the two clubs. Admittedly, over £600,000 was recouped from match day revenues but the willingness to spend such enormous amounts of money on one match shows ambition from the owners.

Although no bright, young Real Madrid prospects have moved to Bournemouth (maybe that’s too optimistic?), money has not been spared on the pitch either. Last week the transfer record of the club was meteorically smashed, being almost tripled to bring in striker Tokelo Rantie for nearly £2.5m from Malmo in Sweden. To put this investment further in to perspective, the club was on its knees only 5 years ago and was on the point of liquidation with a point deduction going into a season in League 2. If you had told fans of the club that in 5 years time they would be in the Championship and spending £2.5m on a player they would have laughed in your face claiming madness. Rantie has not featured for the first team yet, but will hope to make his debut after the international break with fans keen to see what he will bring to the team.

Further investment in the club will now be expected from fans, after Eddie Mitchell stepped down from his role as chairman and sold his 50% stake to co-owner (now sole owner) Maxim Demin. Demin, a Russian petrochemical businessman, has been the money behind Mitchell’s mouth in the last couple of years, funding the majority of new signings and the building of a new state of the art training ground adjacent to the stadium. Having spent heavily with a net loss of nearly £4m since he began his association with the club two years ago, Denim will now be expecting his investments to bear fruition. However, his commitment in buying Mitchell’s stake and his already sizeable investments suggest he is with the club for the long run.

Manager Eddie Howe will now be looking to repay Demin’s investment with results on the pitch, but 9 points from a possible opening 15 will have pleased both manager and owner. With Howe nominated for manager of the month for August, the opening month of the season has overall been more than satisfying for Bournemouth and allowed the cautious optimism held at the beginning of the year to remain.

Written by Cort Robson, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth blogger

Cort tweets at @cort_robson

Thank you Mrs. Mitchell

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

The wife of a chairman of a football club is someone who is rarely mentioned in a macho dominated world, but in this instance all praise must go to the wife of AFC Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell. It was she that convinced her husband to give Eddie Howe a ring and see if he could be persuaded to return to the south coast mid-season, with the Cherries in the middle of a relegation battle.

Since the return of Howe, things have only looked up and what seemed like an improbable finish of second place at the beginning of the season has become reality and Bournemouth can now look forward to playing in the second tier for the first time since 1987 under a certain Harry Redknapp.

Pre-season optimism about Bournemouth’s season was cautious at best, with Paul Groves having done an underwhelming job towards the end of the previous season. The struggles continued at the beginning of this season, with big name signings such as David James and Matt Tubbs failing to live up to their reputations.

Finally, at the beginning of October with Bournemouth occupying the final relegation place in League One and seemingly set to stay there for the year, Groves was sacked and Howe returned. Howe has always been hugely popular with the fans after having played for the club for over 10 years and having a successful first stint in charge of the club. He was not blamed for wanting to test himself at a higher level when he left for Burnley and his return was welcomed with open arms by supporters.

Ever since Howe’s return, things have gone from good, to great, to incredible. Howe was named manager of the month in November 2012, his first full month back in charge, and led the club up the table on an almost unstoppable rampage, including a club record equaling 18 match unbeaten run, and the longest winning run in League One this season with eight.

In March Bournemouth had reached the top of the table, and suddenly a battle to stay in the division had become a positive rather than a negative. A small wobble soon followed though, losing five games in a row which sent the Cherries back outside of the play-offs. Howe and the team regrouped though and that eight game winning streak meant Bournemouth went into the final day of the season in 1stplace, and guaranteed automatic promotion due to the fact that Doncaster in 2nd and Brentford in 3rd were playing each other, meaning both could not overtake Bournemouth.

A win for Bournemouth would have guaranteed the title, but a 0-0 draw away to Tranmere meant relying on Brentford to beat or draw Doncaster. Tension was built further by the fact that game was slightly delayed, until Brentford were awarded a penalty in the 95th minute. The scene was set for Brentford to smash in the penalty, gain automatic promotion for themselves and reward AFCB with the title. A nightmare ensued though as an argument over who should take the penalty proved to reach the wrong conclusion as the bar came to Doncaster’s rescue, who then immediately went down the other end and scored to win 1-0, securing the title.

Despite this, it is hard to say that was a disappointment. With the club in the relegation zone when Howe took over, every fan, player and the manager himself would probably have laughed at you if you had told them they would go into the last day with the title in their hands. Hands would’ve been bitten off quicker than they could have been offered.

Howe himself must take great credit for this achievement, working with largely the same squad that Groves had. In an interview with BBC’s Late Kick Off programme he played down the impact that he and assistant Jason Tindall had made but there is no denying that Bournemouth would not be in the Championship if Howe had not taken over.

He took the team back to basics instead of toying with different formations every game as was often the way under Groves, gave them vital self belief and made quality additions such as Brett Pitman and Matt Ritchie, the latter of whom was named League One player of the year. He also made brave decisions such as dropping former England keeper James and settling on 22-year-old Ryan Allsop as his first choice between the sticks.

Altogether, big thanks have to be given to Mrs. Mitchell for convincing her husband to pick up that phone.

Howe can now have another crack at the Championship, after a solid if unspectacular time at Burnley. Many of the current Bournemouth squad have previously been touted as potential Championship players, and some such as Harry Arter have even been linked with Premier League clubs recently. Howe has also managed to compose a team of players who are yet to reach their peaks, with the majority of the starting XI under the age of 25.

The target for next season must simply be to stay in the Championship and with a youthful squad behind a youthful up-and-coming manager, the future looks bright for AFCB. Plans have been outlaid to finally build a fourth stand to increase the capacity of Dean Court by around 4000, and a new training ground has recently been completed adjacent to the stadium.

With a few additions to the squad and a careful bit of trimming (last season there were seven strikers on the books), Howe, Mitchell and Bournemouth can look forward to a competitive season in the Championship, taking hope from the likes of Charlton this season who comfortably stayed up in their first season back in the second tier.

Written by Cort Robson, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth blogger

Cort tweets at @cort_robson

The cherries taste sweet

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Not even Eddie Howe himself could have predicted the rise Bournemouth would take when he returned for his second spell in charge. Bournemouth have not lost a game since his return, embarking on a 13 game unbeaten run which Howe will hope to extend over the festive period. The south coasters currently lie 9th in the League 1 table, haven risen from the bottom four upon Howe’s return. Sitting two points below the play-offs, and only six points below the top of the table, Bournemouth can finally begin to look up rather than down.

In my previous blog I wrote about how it would be difficult for the honeymoon period between Howe and Bournemouth to continue, but this is looking like a marriage that could be in for the long run. With games coming thick and fast over the festive period, Howe will have to keep Christmas spirit high in the team to keep this run going. He will be without key midfielder Shaun MacDonald, who has been ruled out for two months with ruptured cruciate ankle ligaments. MacDonald has started every game since Howe’s return, with the gaffer heralding him as an unsung hero and a player who keeps the team ticking over. In addition to this, Stephen Gregory has had his contract cancelled by mutual consent in the last few days. Gregory had been out on loan to AFC Wimbledon and so wasn’t in Howe’s immediate plans anyway but was a regular starter under previous boss Paul Groves. With the January transfer window fast approaching, this may be an area that Howe looks at strengthening.

Asides from central midfield, Howe definitely needs to do some housekeeping in regards to Bournemouth’s strikers. Currently, Bournemouth have eight senior strikers in their squad (including Lee Barnard and Brett Pitman, on loan from Southampton and Bristol City respectively). This has forced players such as Josh McQuoid to play on the wing. With Lewis Grabban in red hot form and one of the first names on the team sheet at the moment, this only leaves one place up front being contested by seven other players. Whilst competition is healthy and should give any manager a good headache, seven does not go into one and those being consistently left out will not be happy. Throw into the equation the imminent return of Wes Thomas from his loan at Blackpool, Howe will surely need to trim his striking options. Thomas has previously spoken of his desire to secure a permanent move away rather than a loan if he is to be excluded, but he may be someone Howe should not be so keen to dispose of. Thomas scored a goal every other game during is loan spell at Portsmouth at the beginning of the season, and is continuing that form at Blackpool. Seasiders boss Michael Appleton is keen to keep him onboard, thinking he can perform at a higher level. Thomas also started regularly under Howe when he was at Bournemouth on loan from Crawley at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season and again scored a goal every other game. Although getting rid of Thomas may be an easy option, it is one that Howe should ponder carefully before he decides who to axe.

Asides from an unhealthy dose of strikers, the current Bournemouth squad is relatively well balanced, and Howe’s main concern will be keeping the core of his team fit rather than tinkering in the transfer market. This will leave the club to look forward to a very exciting tie in the FA Cup, a trip away to Premier League Wigan. Although Wigan may not be the ‘glamour’ club many were hoping for, it will make for a great away day trip for fans, with Bournemouth rarely getting to play against top level opposition. Although Wigan will undoubtedly be favourites, this will be a game that will be seen as winnable to a Bournemouth team flowing in confidence. Wigan are known for being consistently inconsistent, and if they are having an off day, Bournemouth will be positive they can take full advantage.

All in all, with Howe’s return to the club being welcomed with open arms by fans and players alike, a strong squad and a juicy third round FA Cup tie awaiting in the New Year, the cherries really are tasting sweet right now for Bournemouth. If a New Years resolution could be made for nothing to change, it is one that Bournemouth would certainly be making.

Written by Cort Robson, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth blogger

Cort tweets at @cort_robson

They say never go back, unless you’re Eddie Howe

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

When Eddie Howe left Bournemouth for Burnley at the start of 2011, most fans of the South Coast club were left downbeat. Howe had saved Bournemouth from relegation in his first season in charge despite having a 17 point disadvantage when he was appointed, then led the club through a transfer embargo to automatic promotion the following season.

Despite leaving, Howe remained a hugely popular figure at AFCB thanks to his managerial success and previous links with the club as a player. His recent return has therefore been welcomed with nothing but open arms, especially seeing how this season has started so poorly. Paul Groves was promoted from the youth team to first team on a permanent basis in the summer but results had been far from impressive. Bournemouth had slipped to within touching distance of the relegation zone and rumours of discontent from the players began to emerge. Groves was duly sacked (although he is now again in charge of the youth team) and Howe returned.

Chairman Eddie Mitchell said fans should thank his wife for the reappointment of Howe as it was her who convinced Mitchell to ask the question to Howe (perhaps he should listen to her on more club decisions?) Burnley were understandably reluctant to let their man go, but Howe was drawn back south for family reasons and Bournemouth have benefited ever since.

In the first 8 league games of Howe’s second reign, Bournemouth have won 6 and drawn 2, seeing them climb the table like an unstoppable force. Now only four points off sixth place, the play-offs are rapidly becoming a realistic goal for Howe and co. Bournemouth have stopped conceding silly goals (perhaps due to the influence of Howe’s playing days as a defender) and have started to find the back of the net more regularly. Attendances have also risen which is no doubt both a factor and a consequence of the recent upturn in results.

Off the pitch, Howe appears to be having a positive effect as well. Marc Pugh has been a key player for the club over the past few seasons, and the winger had refused to sign a contract extension to keep him at the club beyond the summer under Groves. Pugh had stated he wanted to play at a higher level, with many sound judges agreeing he would not be out of place in the Championship.

However, Pugh has had a change of heart since Howe’s return and has publicly said that the manager has had a huge influence on his decision to sign a new three and-a-half year deal. Pugh has said that he believes he can play at a higher level with Bournemouth under Howe, showing a new belief has been installed in the squad. Veteran keeper David James has also been quoted as saying that training sessions are a lot more exciting nowadays and despite being his manager’s elder by eight years, knows that Howe is the boss, something that supposed more heralded Premier League managers have failed to do with more senior players.

Howe has also overseen the recent return of striker Brett Pitman on loan from Bristol City, with a view to a permanent move in January. Pitman was lethal in his first spell at Bournemouth and despite not playing that many games for City, has maintained a decent goal to minute ratio. Pitman enjoyed his second debut this weekend, scoring a last minute equaliser against Bury to preserve Howe’s unbeaten record in his second stint. All in all, things on the South Coast have been juicier than a peach since Howe’s comeback; the only question now is, can this form be kept up or is the honeymoon period fast coming to an end?

Written by Cort Robson, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth blogger

Cort tweets at @cort_robson

The Steve Fletcher Stand…

Friday, November 11th, 2011

In a week where arguably the greatest manager of all time was commemorated with the renaming at the North Stand at Old Trafford to ‘The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand’, you can’t help but wonder what bosses at AFC Bournemouth were thinking when deciding to rename their own North Stand. The North Stand at Dean Court, which is occupied by the most loyal Cherries fans, was renamed in homage of Steve Fletcher back in March 2010, complete with a four-foot image of the less than prolific striker’s head.

No-one can question ‘Big Fletch’ when it comes down to loyalty to the club, amassing over 700 appearances for the Cherries between 1992-2011, minus short spells at Chesterfield (07/08) and Crawley Town (08/09). However, in his 17 years plus at the club, Steve Fletcher has only managed to reach a total goal tally of 120. That’s around about a 1-in-6 goals to games ratio. Some may say that this criticism is unfair and that he is considered  more of a ‘goal provider’ than a goal scorer himself, such as when assisting strike partner Jermain Defoe to set a record of scoring 10 goals in 10 successive league games on a loan spell in the 2000/01 season. However, in over 700 games at a club which has never been higher than the third tier of English football during his time at the club, you would have expected a little more in the goals department from someone who is deemed a ‘legend’ on the terraces at Dean Court.

When you look at other clubs in England who have honoured players by naming a stand after them, it puts the Steve Fletcher Stand into context:

Liverpool – in terms of trophies, the most successful English team of all time – have no stands named after any ex, or indeed current, players. ‘What, even with all those great players who have played for them; Dalglish, Souness, Keegan, Hughes, Rush, Barnes, Clemence?’ I hear you ask. The fact that they would have to have an 11-sided stadium to be able to give a name to each who deserve it may come into question, but maybe they feel that none of these players have truly done enough to become part of what that club is. After all, no player is bigger than the club, right?

A quick whizz around the rest of the Premier League sees a many clubs who have chosen to honour a particular past player.

Manchester City renamed the Etihad Stadium’s West Stand ‘The Colin Bell Stand’ in 2004, in honour of the player who is widely regarded as their greatest ever player (although that may change soon if David Silva continues to perform as of recent!).

Newcastle United have got ‘The Milburn Stand’ named after the 1950′s legend Jackie Milburn, who scored 177 goals in 353 league games for the Magpies in a 14-year playing spell.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have renamed every stand of their Molineux ground, each for their own respectable reasons. All time leading goalscorer Steve Bull is commemorated along with previous player and manager Stan Cullis. The first footballer to ever earn 100 caps for their country, Billy Wright, also has his name on a stand along with former Chairman Jack Harris.

As these Premier League clubs show, there is a general reluctance to give the honour of the name of a stand to a former player. In fact, many renamed stands come about from fan polls that are conducted many years after the playing spell of that particular have long ended. Steve Fletcher is the current Assistant Manager of AFC Bournemouth. He is also still a current member of playing squad. To honour such a player seems a bit humorous, particularly in the view of visiting players and fans; after all, that four foot image on top of the stand isn’t exactly inconspicuous!

‘Big Fletch’ is widely tipped to become a future manger of the Cherries. So who knows, he may just earn the honour that The Steve Fletcher Stand gives him in the many years to come. Let’s hope so anyway!

Written by Craig Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth Blogger

Craig tweets at @craigdwhittaker

“If you don’t like it, go and support Southampton”

Friday, September 9th, 2011

It’s the kind of comment you would expect to hear at lunchtime in a primary school playground, not from someone who is involved in the running of a football club, especially the chairman. However, those were the words of AFC Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell during a BBC Radio Solent Fans’ Forum last Thursday evening.

The timing of the forum couldn’t have been worse for Mitchell, with Bournemouth selling key asset Liam Feeney to Millwall on Deadline Day and failing to bring in a replacement. This added to the already increasing frustration at the lack of activity in finding a replacement for Danny Ings who joined Burnley earlier in the window for £1 million. Many Bournemouth fans were very disgruntled that a very productive squad towards the end of last season was almost entirely dismantled, one by one. This was followed by few new arrivals, turning a promotion chasing season into one which could turn into a relegation battle.

This point of re-investment was raised at the forum with Eddie Mitchell seeming to dodge the blame – he responded in a surprisingly defensive way:

“Lee Bradbury has money to buy players and both myself and the board are working very hard to find more money and more investment, the club is sat with a pocket of £1.4million in the bank to support Lee in the future. We are constantly working; just because transfer deadline has gone by it doesn’t mean to say it’s the end.”

This seems a very odd thing for a previously ambitious chairman to say. It defies logic to think that a club could still attract players of the required standing when the transfer window is closed, leaving the options as narrow as free agents alone. Unless he means that the club will re-invest the money in the January transfer window? That’s promising to hear, but the club could be in a much worse position by that time. After all, sitting 21st in League One after a run of four straight defeats isn’t exactly pretty reading for Cherries fans.

Mitchell continued:

“We’ve sold players because we’ve been pushed into situations to sell those players through their own success, most if not all of the deals that were done have been good deals for the club, it’s consolidated the club, it’s built the club and the club has got to be built from the bottom upwards, not the top down and that’s how I’m going to build it and if you don’t like it, go and support Southampton.”

That is the part that will really infuriate fans. Eddie Mitchell started on the defensive curve and then turned it into something completely immature. Of course he doesn’t want loyal fans to go and support their closest rivals, so why say it? They are the words of a man who was pushed and pushed and said something he will regret, also the points he is making don’t even make sense. How can you build a club from the bottom up if you sell all of the key players? Selling club captain Jason Pearce earlier in the summer then replacing him with experienced Adam Barrett is good for the club in the short run, but the chairman is not going to persuade anyone that Barrett is going offer as much to the club as someone eight years his junior.

The news got worse during Thursday’s forum when it was revealed that Steve Lovell, who had been plagued by injury since his arrival at Bournemouth in 2010, made the decision to retire – thus diminishing the Cherries striking options. Lovell had been injured for the majority of his only season for Bournemouth, but promising displays in the play-offs and pre-season seemed to have firmly shoehorned him into Lee Bradbury’s first team plans. The reasons Lovell gave for his sudden retirement the day after the transfer window closed was put down to his injury, but it is widely believed that he was disgruntled at the lack of re-investment within the squad.

Hindsight is a beautiful but ugly thing and Eddie Mitchell will no doubt be wishing the club had delved further into the transfer market, ensuring Bournemouth are still in a position to fight come the next window. However, what’s done is done. From here the current members of the management and playing staff need to come together as one, in an attempt to get through the next couple of months and be in a position to do something with the second half of the season.

Written by Craig Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth Blogger

Craig tweets at @craigdwhittaker

Ings for a penny, Ings for a (million) pound

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

From apprentice to a £1 million transfer in 30 appearances.

So chairman Eddie Mitchell has, for once some may say, kept his promise: Danny Ings has become AFC Bournemouth’s first million pound player. Although the actual figure hasn’t been revealed by either club, Mitchell confirmed it was over the million pound barrier and has absolutely smashed our previous transfer records’. Ings, 19, became the latest player to depart the south coast club to join up with former Cherries boss Eddie Howe at Burnley. The confirmation of his transfer on Monday afternoon left questions for a number of Bournemouth fans, but also left many rubbing their hands at the prospect of bringing in a few players for the cost of one player; especially a player who had made so few first team appearances.

There is no doubt Danny Ings possesses huge potential, potential that at one point during last season saw him being linked with a move to none other than Premier League giants Liverpool. Fulham were another top flight outfit keeping tabs on the youngster.

However, any way you look at it, £1 million is a lot of money to spend on a player with such little first team experience. Ings played a vital role in securing a play-off spot for Bournemouth in League One last season, and then scored what he thought was the match winning goal in the semi-final against Huddersfield Town.

It turned out to be false dawn as Huddersfield reached the final after a penalty shootout win, but Ings’ performance gained him a lot of fans that night. It was a very mature performance from the 19 year old and showed he could step up to the big occasion when it really mattered. However a goal record to a striker is important and 8 goals in 30 games for Bournemouth isn’t exactly shouting out ‘million pound striker.’

Ings’ imminent departure certainly didn’t seem to have any impact upon the rest of the Bournemouth squad when they took on strongly backed Sheffield Wednesday at Dean Court on Saturday. The Cherries looked very composed after the 3-0 loss to Charlton on the opening weekend and took the lead in the 38th minute after new captain Adam Barrett strolled in unmarked at the back post from a Marc Pugh corner to head in from close range. The goal added to what was a very assured performance from the veteran centre-back, who earned the Man of the Match award for his display. Skilful midfielder Harry Arter added a second in the 84th minute when he controlled a Liam Feeney cross and lashed it into the bottom right corner with his left foot from 15 yards.

And then came the first post-Ings game. Bournemouth hosted recently promoted Stevenage at Dean Court on Tuesday night, hoping to build on the impressive display against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend. However, it didn’t go to plan when Stevenage took the lead just before half time as Craig Reid slotted the ball home to many outcries of offside from the Cherries defence. Harry Arter came on at half time and immediately pegged back Stevenage’s lead with a well taken goal in the 47th minute. Bournemouth were behind again in the 65th minute after a sequence of unfortunate incidents. Flahavan and Cooper collided in the box and the ball broke to Long. Long’s shot was blocked on the line by the arm of Adam Barrett; penalty and a red card for the Cherries skipper. Bournemouth’s misery was compounded in stoppage time when Myrie-Williams made it 3-1 to Stevenage.

The Bournemouth fans will be hoping that the Stevenage game won’t be the story of the season to come; a lot of effort but no end result. Manager Lee Bradbury must be given the funds from the sale of Danny Ings to strengthen the squad in defence and attack if the Cherries are to live up to the expectation of them this season. One game at a time mind, and the long trip to Carlisle this weekend might not be the easiest place to get back on track.

If not then, there is always the ‘glamour tie’ of hosting the Premier League’s yo-yo team West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup next Tuesday… BOSCOMBE, back of the net!

Written by Craig Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Bournemouth blogger.

Craig tweets at @craigdwhittaker

Another Rollercoaster Season for the Cherries?

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Here we are, a matter of days into the new football season and it already looks as if it could be an on/off season for AFC Bournemouth.  A season which gave fans much expectation after the exploits of last season was brought firmly back down to earth within a couple of hours on the first day of the season at The Valley. 3-0 was the scoreline away to Charlton Athletic, and although many would not bat an eyelid at this result, the Bournemouth faithful were hoping for a much more promising start to the season.

However, on Tuesday evening Bournemouth had an early break from the league with a Carling Cup tie at home to Dagenham and Redbridge. This was almost definitely a welcome break for manager Lee Bradbury as it would have given him an opportunity to try out different tactics before the next league game. And as it turned out, this proved dividends. Bournemouth ran out 5-0 winners at home to D&R, with young striker Lyle Taylor continuing his pre-season form with a late brace after coming on as a substitute. Perhaps Taylor’s exploits can enable him to keep his place for this weekend’s league game against Sheffield Wednesday.

The Background

More known as a popular seaside resort for families from all across the British Isles, and a hot-bed for stag and hen do’s, you could be excused for failing to realise that the South Coast team of Bournemouth even existed. Lower league existence is all there has been for the club, barring a second tier stint in the late 80’s under none other than good old ‘Arry Redknapp. However, with a loyal chairman finally at the helm, and a managerial partnership of ex-players Lee Bradbury and Steve Fletcher, things are finally looking up for AFC Bournemouth.

After such an overachieving 2010-11 campaign by AFC Bournemouth, you would be excused for thinking that solidifying a position within League One would be the main aim for the coming season. However, this thought couldn’t be further from the mind of the staff and players and there is a heightened sense of optimism all around the town. Taking the positives from the experiences of last season, along with the heartache suffered in Play-off semi-final penalty shootout defeat to Huddersfield, Bournemouth are pushing to go one better this season with a full-on assault on the automatic promotion places to the Championship.

The preparation required for such an assault has not been on the agenda for the Cherries for many a year. This expectation has been proven with the many signings that have been made along with the inevitable departures. The most major of these departures being Team Captain Jason Pearce, 23, being sold to Portsmouth for a relatively respectable £300,000. Also on the exit list is domineering midfielder Anton Robinson, who has hooked up with the team who drew to a close Bournemouth’s playoff aspirations last season, Huddersfield Town. In previous seasons, transfers such as these would have been followed by no replacements for one reason or another, but with the renewed optimism comes realised potential. The potential in this case has been the signing of experienced centre back Adam Barrett, 31, from Crystal Palace, and Barrett has slotted into the Team Captain vacancy Pearce left with unnerved confidence during the pre-season friendlies. Barrett capped off his excellent pre-season form with a sterling performance and a goal in Bournemouth’s penultimate friendly against his old club Crystal Palace.

The defence has also been reinforced with the addition of veteran goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan, 32, from Portsmouth. Flahavan looks favourite to start as number one ahead of Schwan Jalal, who is widely expected to leave the club when his contract ends due to many interested parties. Another stand-out signing has been 20 year old left back Scott Malone, in a six month loan deal from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Malone, or @benditscotty as he is known to his Twitter followers, provides a welcome alternative to ageing full back Warren Cummings. His position at left back seems assured despite only being at the club for a matter of days, partly down to a thunderbolt of a strike against Cardiff in the most recent pre-season friendly.

Perhaps the best bit of business in the off-season is the (at time of writing!) ability to keep hold of star striker Danny Ings. After a string of excellent performances last season, Ings, 19, has been coveted by many teams in the Premier League and Championship, with even Liverpool being mentioned earlier in the summer. Usually the end result of such interest would only mean one thing, the player leaving, but the stance set by the chairman is something Bournemouth fans can at least take satisfaction in. Chairman Eddie Mitchell’s promise that Danny Ings will become AFC Bournemouth’s first £1m player means that even if he were to leave it would provide valuable funds to strengthen the squad. So, every cloud and all that, but we still want you to stay, Danny.

Pre-Season Friendlies

12.07.2011 – Hamworthy Rec 0 – 10 Bournemouth

14.07.2011 – Poole Town 4 – 4 Bournemouth

16.07.2011 – Bournemouth 1-1 Glenn Hoddle Academy (Bournemouth won 3-2 on Pens)

17.07.2011 – Bournemouth 0-2 Saarbrucken

19.07.2011 – Wimborne Town 0-3 Bournemouth

21.07.2011 – Winchester City 2-2 Bournemouth

23.07.2011 – Bournemouth 2-1 Cardiff City

Bournemouth beat a strong Cardiff City side 2-1 in what was a promising friendly, getting off the mark early thanks to a terrific 25 yard strike by new recruit Scott Malone. Steve Lovell doubled the lead for the Cherries in the second half before Andrew Taylor pulled one back for the Cardiff late on.

30.07.2011 – Bournemouth 3 – 1 Crystal Palace

01.08.2011 – Dorchester Town 0 – 1 Bournemouth

No doubt results such as those against the two Championship sides would have had Bournemouth fans licking their lips at the prospect of Charlton away on the first day of the season. However, with pre-season games often misguiding fans on what to expect from the competitive games ahead, Lee Bradbury will be keen to ensure supporter and players expectations are kept realistic going into the new season.

Written by Craig Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth Blogger

Craig tweets @craigdwhittaker