Monday, December 05, 2022

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Bournemouth FC Fight to Maintain Better Days

Bouremouth FC badge (via Wikipedia)After another Premier League defeat for Bournemouth in the latest round of fixtures, by fellow strugglers Norwich, concern grows that their stay in the top flight could rapidly be over. But to have got to that giddy height at all in the first place is quite the achievement in itself to those of us with longer memories...



Coincidentally, given that the calendar is soon to turn over to the second month of a new year, we can revisit February of 2008 & the hand of doom hovering over the Cherries as administration took hold, debts of £4 million putting the knife in. A ten point deduction ultimately contributed to relegation to League Two, the Football League itself kicking them while they were down by threatening to withdraw their place as so recently happened to Bury. One of many visiting teams I saw run out at Dean Court alongside my dad in our last sustained spell of going to games together, as first sparked by a chance look at the sports pages resolving the question of how to spend a free Saturday afternoon, Oldham at home looking a safe bet, reasonably priced & relatively local.


And so we joined the ranks of the second-teamers, my brother & I having been raised Liverpool supporters, as by Dad's admission he'd been a bit of a glory hunter! Perhaps as a means of self-flagellation for this we then spent a good few years seeing precisely nothing of the sort on our jaunts to the King's Park area. But it mattered not, for Dad & I had something to bond over. The whole routine of setting off in the early afternoon on matchday, more often than not accompanied by scratchy radio signal as we took in the build-up, before ( as I grew older) a swift pint in the Inn Off The Post at the ground so we could let the exit traffic die down.


Glamorous it often wasn't in the pre-Premier League years. But still I lived for it- and a pang of the old days resurfaced when it was announced that Blackpool fans finally had their club back after years of mismanagement by those in the boardroom. Having once witnessed a Seasiders visit watched from the away end by a few hundred diehards & a giant flag, I couldn't help but share in the delight from afar that the Oystons were finally out of Bloomfield Road- remembering as I do the optimism when the home side that day finally exited the lottery of administration a few years earlier.


Taking Bournemouth off the rollercoaster was a consortium including a previously failed bidder in local businessman Adam Murry, alongside Jeff Mostyn & Eddie Mitchell. The latter of which who'd previously served as chairman at Dorchester, filling a similar role before selling up, having proved himself not hugely popular to Maxim Demin, the co-owner in October 2011. Before that, though, there was the matter of a winding up petition from HMRC to resolve, a scenario familiar to many similarly afflicted clubs...


In charge of matters on the field was young caretaker gaffer Eddie Howe- whose future seems today to be under ever increasing scrutiny the further from the summit of survival he & his charges fall. Even in those days there was a consensus in the stands that promotion might kill the club, who barely had the finances to achieve it in the wake of his elevation to the top job having originally stepped in when another former player, Jimmy Quinn, departed.


Howe's own first full season ended in promotion back to League One before he departed for the bright lights of Burnley, taking several players with him including the potential England international Danny Ings. Arriving as a schoolboy having been released by Southampton, who would later realise their mistake & snap him up following a struggle to get anywhere near the first team at Liverpool, he would sign a youth contract to swap red & white for red & black in May of 2008.


A first professional goal arrived three years later in a February 2011 home win over Swindon, having initially struggled to get anywhere near the first team, & the upturn in his form was rewarded with five contract extensions in a year before following his manager to Turf Moor for a fee of around £1 million & outlasting him in Lancashire, staying for around five years where Howe could only manage the one season, & finishing up with 38 goals from 122 games.


Tail between his legs amidst reports he & his family simply failed to settle up North, Eddie would return to the south coast & lead the men in red & black to the promised land of the Championship. Several in the stands (where I longed to be, though the rise in the cost of tickets & indeed their rapid unavailability in the wake of success had increased Dad's reluctance to go) no doubt pinching themselves.


Running out of bodily spots to do so we would have cause to switch to rubbing our eyes in disbelief as the 2014-15 Championship title was clinched & a pipe dream became reality after a final day win over Charlton. August 8, 2015 brought with it the first Premier League game at Dean Court as Aston Villa visited & took three points- injuries to then- captain Tommy Elphick & Callum Wilson not exactly helping matters as the dreaming of pre- season gave way to a harsh reality check at the hands of the big boys.


The so-called difficult second season then failed to materialise, a ninth place finish secured during the debut campaigns of the likes of Nathan Ake, initially on loan before a move from Chelsea was made permanent, & Josh King, both of whom have gone on to play pivotal roles since. A similar permanent return for Jermain Defoe promised much, especially for those who had seen him during a previous loan from West Ham relatively early in his since- nomadic career, Harry Redknapp proving himself quite the friend in high places for the Cherries!


His own time in charge was of course notable for several reasons, not least as Bournemouth gave him his first crack at management following 102 appearances as a Cherries player across two spells. Their faith rewarded as he led them away from relegation to the Fourth Division & an FA Cup scalping of the previous year's winners Manchester United.


Arriving first time round in the year 2000, Jermain went on to score in his first ten games, bagging himself 18 goals in 29 before heading back to Upton Park. There’s been 4 from 28 in his second spell, after exiting stage left at Sunderland following their relegation, including a strike in the derby against Brighton on September 16, 2017.


Since agreeing an eighteen month loan move to Rangers, he has been a sensation in the Scottish Premiership, with a goal on his debut against Kilmarnock meaning he had scored at the first time of asking for five out of his seven clubs! A few days ago he signed a pre-contract with Rangers, meaning he’s almost guaranteed to leave Bournemouth permanently, for a 2nd time, in the summer transfer window.



By that time we’ll know if Bournemouth have prolonged their Premier League stay to a remarkable 6th consecutive season, or if they will be rebuilding back in the Championship. Whatever happens, Eddie Howe has done a superb job and his future will surely be entwined with the Premier League.



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