10 Year Challenge: AFC Bournemouth

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We’re going in alphabetical order in this 10 Year Challenge series, next on the list is established Premier League side Bournemouth. The earliest memory I have of Bournemouth is using them in FIFA 08 because they had Darren Anderton who played for Tottenham in the 1990s. Why I was so infatuated with him I have no idea. I never envisaged that Bournemouth would become a Premier League club particularly when they were languishing at the bottom of the Football League pyramid. At the start of the 2008-09 season Bournemouth were deducted 17 points at the start of the season and faced an uphill battle to stay in League Two.

Bournemouth’s (or Ballmouth as Helen Chamberlain referred to them as) story was heavily featured on Soccer AM in the days when the show was three hours long and more time could be devoted to lower league teams. Every week I was intrigued to see if a team could survive despite such a heavy point deduction. The Cherries weren’t the only side to have a points deduction that season, Darlington, Rotherham and Luton were deducted 10, 17 and 30 points respectively. It made an interesting story for neutrals but it was harrowing for fans to see their clubs go through such financial turmoil.

Out of the 4 teams that were deducted points, only Luton were relegated which was a fantastic achievement on behalf of those clubs. Bournemouth finished 21st with 46 points and would have finished 11th if it weren’t for their points handicap. After their finances improved, Bournemouth consolidated their place in League Two and gained promotion to League One in 2011. Young manager Eddie Howe led Bournemouth to the promised land of League One but he was prized away from them by Burnley. We know however, that Howe was far from finished with Bournemouth.

Howe returned to the seaside club in 2012 and was integral to their rapid rise up the footballing pyramid. I remember the string of impressive performances they produced in the 2014-15 Championship season and I thought it wouldn’t last. This was Bournemouth, they’re not a big enough club to be in the Premier League. They’ve got a tiny stadium, a young manager and no big name players. How wrong I was. Their attractive football kept producing results and they secured the golden ticket of a place in the Premier League.

Since 2015 Bournemouth have been a high octane, quick passing, breath of fresh for the Premier League. Many thought they would struggle to survive playing their attacking brand of football but it has proven to be a winning formula. Throughout their time in the top flight they haven’t been involved in a serious relegation dog fight and are consistently picking up scalps against big clubs. They’ve become a bogey team for Chelsea in recent years. Chelsea losing to anyone is always good viewing.

We know that Bournemouth have a stellar side full of international players now, but I’m going to go back to their squad from the 2009-10 season to see how much things have changed.

Goalkeeper: Shwan Jalal

Jalal who was born in Iraq but grew up in Hastings was between the sticks for Bournemouth a decade ago. He began his career at Bournemouth as a trialist before being signed permanently in 2008. After Bournemouth were promoted to the Chamionship, Jalal was gradually phased out of the first team. There was a loan move to Leyton Orient before eventually leaving for Bury in 2014. Jalal is currently at Chesterfield and is also working towards a career in sports journalism. Perhaps we will cross paths later down the line.

Right back- Ryan Garry

Garry featured 33 times for Bournemouth that season, he was a former Arsenal youth player who came through the ranks at Highbury. He was a member of the 2001 FA Youth Cup winning side. Whilst at Arsenal, Garry played one Premier League match and it was quite a significant match in Arsenal history. It was a 6-1 victory over Southampton which was the first match in Arsenal’s eventual 49 game unbeaten run. In his own way, Garry was one of the Invincibles. Unfortunately aged only 27, Garry was forced to retire from football due to a nerve problem in his leg. He is now back at his first love, Arsenal as part of the youth coaching set up.

Defender- Jason Pearce

Pearce is a man who seems to find himself captaining whatever side he turns up at. He has been captain of Bournemouth, Leeds and Portsmouth. That says a lot about the leadership qualities he surely possesses both on and off the pitch. He captained Bournemouth during this season and was crucial to Bournemouth’s promotion that year.

Defender- Warren Cummings

This Scottish defender is the first player in the list who has represented their country as a full international. His one cap for Scotland came in 2002 in a match against a Hong Kong XI side. Not the most prestigious match in the world but a cap nonetheless. Going into the 2009-10 side Cummings was one of the longest serving players at the club. He moved to the south coast in 2003 permanently after a successful loan spell. Bournemouth rewarded him for his services to the club with a testimonial in 2016 against AC Milan.

Left back- Rhoys Wiggins

To anyone who isn’t well versed with the Welsh language, his name is pronounced ‘Reece.’ Similarly to Cummings, Wiggins moved to Bournemouth after impressing on two separate loan spells. Before coming to Bournemouth Wiggins featured 8 times for the Welsh under 21 but he was unable to break into the first team. This squad had bad luck with injuries as Wiggins retired early due to injury much like his teammate Garry. The Welshman was seriously injured in his second match for Birmingham City and was forced to retire.

Right winger- Liam Feeney

Feeney is a player who’d I have been more familiar with throughout the years, mainly from his time at Millwall. He’s been a solid lower league winger throughout his career, breaking down flanks with pace and getting crosses in on his right foot. Pace has always been part of Bournemouth’s DNA even when they were in League 2. We can see that nowadays with the likes of Ryan Fraser providing goals and assists from the wing.

Centre Midfielder- Danny Hollands

Players who spent their youths at Chelsea was a bit of a trend in this squad as Hollands and Cummings both spent their formative years at Stamford Bridge. The central midfielder was captain of the Chelsea youth team but never featured for the first team. Remember, this was Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and giving youth a chance was not his style. In 2006 he signed for Bournemouth on a permanent deal and left after helping get them promoted to League One. Hollands turned down a new deal at Bournemouth to join Charlton who were the bigger club at the time.

Centre midfielder- Marvin Bartley

Bartley was a favoured player of Eddie Howe, that was clear when he followed Howe to Burnley in 2011. Bartley outlasted Howe at Turf Moor but there was no return to Bournemouth for Bartley when they were promoted to the Championship. After 2014 Bartley dropped down the divisions to Leyton Orient before making Scotland his home with moves to Hibernian and Livingston.

Left winger- Alan Connell

Connell is an important figure in the Bournemouth story because he scored the goal that secured their promotion to League 1 in 2010. This was the Englishman’s second spell at the club after leaving them initially in 2005. Despite scoring the crucial goal of the season, 2010 signified the end of Connell’s time at Bournemouth as he moved on to Grimsby Town. Connell retired in 2016 after finishing his career at Poole Town.

Striker- Brett Pitman

Something that was always a regular occurrence when watching Soccer Saturday was seeing the name Brett Pitman flash across the vidiprinter whoever he was playing for. He nearly averaged a goal every 2 games for Bournemouth, 37 goals across 94 games is an impressive record. The 2009-10 season was his most prolific for Bournemouth, bagging 26 goals in 46 appearances. There was no point deduction to hold Bournemouth back this time and with the quality of Pitman, they knew that promotion was achievable. Pitman is now at Portsmouth where he is still scoring goals regularly, there are few more reliable strikers for guaranteeing Football League goals than him.

Striker- Steve Fletcher

Last but certainly not least is Bournemouth legend. I first became aware of Fletcher because of Soccer AM and the insight that they offered into Bournemouth’s struggles. He would traditionally be described as a target man because of his height and strength but he was much more than that. A larger than life figure who scored 103 league goals for Bournemouth across two spells. Steve Fletcher is an integral part of Bournemouth and even after retirement he couldn’t say away. To this day Fletcher is a first team coach at the club and one of Bournemouth’s all time greats.

The Bournemouth players who are currently in the Premier League owe a lot to this squad and their efforts during incredibly testing times when the club’s future hung in the balance. This series is trying to show that fans should not take success for granted and that their clubs have come through adversity to reach the Premier League. Who would have thought back in 2009 that England internationals like Jack Wilshere and Jermain Defoe would be playing for Bournemouth and eventually have to leave as they weren’t in the first team. Bournemouth have had a remarkable decade and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more stories to write in the years to come.

(Image credit https://www.worldsoccer.com/news/bournemouth-premier-league-fixtures-406023 )

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