Ahead of our trip to the Vitality Stadium, I’ve been chatting with Peter Bell, owner and writer of the Bournemouth Cherry Chimes blog…
Before we get stuck into Saturday, a bit about you and how the blog came about, and your Bournemouth journey?
Peter: The Cherry Chimes came about in February 2013, some four months after Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall returned to the club for their second and current management spell having departed Burnley. The blog was started, because I sensed something special was happening at the club and that promotion to the Championship for only the second time in the club’s history was possible.
My own Bournemouth journey began in 1980 when I used to watch the Cherries under David Webb and then Harry Redknapp. I left Bournemouth for university at the end of the 1980s and started supporting them more avidly again in 2008-09 when Eddie Howe became the manager in our famous ‘minus 17’ season. when we survived the drop to the Conference to stay in the Football League having started the season on -17 points.
You still pinching yourselves? I know you’re seen as part of the PL fabric now, but still it remains some story given where, as you just mentioned, you came from.
The rise of the club has been remarkable in such a short space of time. In the last decade, there probably hasn’t been a better ground than Dean Court to see the development of a club from League Two to the Premier League. We have also played Real Madrid, AC Milan, Napoli and Olympic Lyon to name a few, as well as the Premier League clubs. In the first season of the Premier League, we did pinch ourselves – ‘We’re only here for one season’ we would sing and ‘We come from League Two’. Now we have become as established as any team, not in the top six, and yet we have not forgotten where we came from.
I am going to have a cheeky plug here! I have just released my first book called ‘Eddie Had A Dream‘ on Amazon, which charts the playing and coaching career of Eddie Howe and AFC Bournemouth’s history from 1994-2019. The history of the club is really important to us fans.
Your rise and rise was clearly part fairytale/part huge funding from a billionaire benefactor… is the club still being funded to similar levels. The FFP issues are successfully negotiated these days even with the relatively small stadium?
Pleasingly, the club came to an agreement with the Football League at the end of 2015-16 and made a settlement on the Financial Fair Play issue. But if the club had not spent more than it should it would not have been able to compete against other clubs that have crowds of 40,000 in the Championship. The laws favoured the big clubs and not those with a fanbase of 10,000. So I don’t regret that the club did what it did to make it more of a level playing field and to give our team more of chance of getting promoted.<
I hear what you’re saying but if every club adopted that same approach it would become ‘lawless’ and a competition around who has the richest benefactor (if indeed you can find one).
So, what are the expectations at the Vitality these days? Am guessing to begin with it was a question of survival but given that relegation has rarely been an issue, do you consider yourselves part of the battle for seventh? (arguably sixth this season given that United are currently so 5hit).
I think the best that AFC Bournemouth could possibly finish is a place between seventh and tenth. I predicted a finish of 12th for this season with the injuries that we have been carrying. The club needs to build its new state-of-the-art training complex to bring on its home-grown players and build a new stadium to compete higher in the Premier League. But just staying in the top division is no disgrace. We have managed five years out of some 100 plus years of our history in the top division, so we’d never knock finishing 17th in the Premier League.
It’s been a solid start to the season. You happy? Who, so far, has stood out?
The games have been as hard as ever and we had disappointment on the first day not beating Sheffield United, but beating Everton and, especially, Southampton (first-ever win at St Mary’s) put us on the right track.
Our young goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has been the outstanding payer for me. He has been full of enthusiasm and has given his all, which is all we can ask for. Hopefully, he gets his first clean sheet soon. It is also hard to not be impressed with Harry Wilson’s goals – he’s on loan from Liverpool. But a player that has also impressed is our left-back Diego Rico, who has had to wait for his chance but is now doing very well. His crossing has been first-class this season.
Does the Bournemouth academy produce at any level? We rarely hear of your youngsters coming through but that probably because I’m not paying attention. Any in the first-team squad?
Bournemouth’s academy is not at the Premier League level. It is part of the reason why the new training ground complex is needed with an indoor ground to help the youth players be able to play against the bigger clubs.
We have had a few players come through like Jack Simpson, who is a centre back, and I’ve been impressed with Gavin Kilkenny this summer, who played in most of the friendlies on the right-wing. Sam Surridge is also an up-and-coming striker who is so good, he’s gone out on loan at Swansea City, and you can see the Swans are having a great season in the Championship.
At the opposite end of the spectrum… Andrew Surman still around? We liked him here… he just liked you better ?
Surs is still Surs – passing sideways. He one of the senior members of the squad now and rarely gets to play, but he has great experience and is handy to have around the younger players and can still do a turn if needed. He has a bit too much competition these days with Jefferson Lerma, Philip Billing and Lewis Cook around.
Has Eddie Howe’s philosophy changed or evolved in your time in the Prem? We’re told constantly that we’re naive for wanting to play out from the back and patiently through the thirds but that’s always been the Howe way, right?
We have become a better counter-attacking team in the last 12 months. The team works very quickly from back to front now when it wins possession in and around its own box. We still like to see the overlapping full-backs, but the majority of goals are coming via Callum Wilson, and the team pretty much plays to his strengths these days.
So, finally… standard stuff… score prediction for Saturday?
I can’t see it being a 0-0. I am sure Norwich will score at least one as we can’t keep a clean sheet but I also think you are too open to keep our strike force out, so I’m going for a 3-1 home win.
However, I do believe that Norwich will stay up.
Cheers for that Peter… enjoy(ish) the game.