Opposition View – AFC Bournemouth

Peter Bell of Cherry Chimes answers our questions ahead of our clash with Bournemouth this weekend.

How long have you supported Bournemouth and what was your first game?
Ha, I’m an old man! I lived in Bournemouth from the age of four so I can remember people talking about the legendary Ted MacDougall although my preference at the time was to support Liverpool. I even had pictures of John Toshack on my bedroom wall in the late 70s.

It was back on 21 November 1981 when I believe I first went to a match at Dean Court. The Cherries were playing Reading in the FA Cup 1st Round and Tony Funnell scored the only goal in front of a crowd of 7376. Reading were in Division 3, a division higher than AFC Bournemouth so it was a big result and we got to the third round that year where we lost to Oxford Utd 2.0. I think the Reading game might have been a treat as it was two days after my 16th birthday and I guess I have never looked back since. The Cherry Chimes blog though only started in February 2013 when I plucked up the courage to start sharing my thoughts about the team.

Best and worst games in your time as a fan?
That’s difficult as there have been so many highs and lows, but I never liked Ma Utd and when they came down to our small ground with Ron Atkinson in the FA Cup and expected to turn us over easily in 1984 it was a great thrill to see the Cherries come out 2-0 winners. It was a cold night and the atmosphere was rocking. The Cherries had been playing well under Harry Redknapp and on the night they thoroughly deserved the win. I am hoping for a similar result in the Premier League this December when the Red Devils are back in town again.

As for the worst game, I think recent memories stick with me most. We have started to have quite a respectful rivalry with Watford in recent years and it still hurts that we suffered a 6-1 battering from them in the Championship on our return to that league in 2013 after a 21 year absence. AFC Bournemouth were just getting to grips with the league and it was 1-1 at half time so it came as a real shock to see Troy Deeney get a hat-trick and the mascot Harry the Hornet really rubbing our noses in it at Vicarage Road.

Favourite ever player and manager and why?
I’ve always liked Ian Bishop who played in Harry Redknapp’s mid-1980s team at Bournemouth on the wing and went on to play for Man City and West Ham. He was always a big favourite of Harry Redknapp and he had long locks that always flowed well in the wind behind him when he raced up the wing. As for the manager I think even Harry would say he has been overtaken by what Eddie Howe has accomplished. Eddie is one of the nicest guys I have ever have the pleasure to meet and he deserves all the plaudits that come his way. We love him down here on the south coast and always will.

How’s your season been so far?
Well if you look at the team’s results you’d say not to good, but the experience of visiting some great grounds and seeing AFC Bournemouth’s players take on the best in the Premier League has been exhilarating most of the time. The first win at West Ham was a big day out for the fans and I think most of us are hoping for another away day like that soon. We travel in great numbers now and really contribute to the atmosphere so you will know that we are in the ground. I’ve enjoyed seeing the Match of the Day, Sky and BT Sports pundits comment on the Cherries games and I think all of our fans know that things will never quite be the same again.

Were you happy with the signings you made over the summer?
It would have been nice if we still had some of the summer signings fit and ready to play. We have not really seen Christian Atsu apart from in the Capital One Cup if fans travelled to Hartlepool or Preston and not many of us made it up that far north in midweek. Tyrone Mings lasted just six minutes against Leicester City and Max Gradel was injured in the same match – another cruciate ligament gone! Max Gradel would certainly have played a lot of games for us this season so he is a big miss. It was key though for Eddie Howe to bring in experience at the back and Sylvain distin has been tremendous. While Adam Federici has made some mistakes, he is finally starting to look settled and ready to challenge Artur Boruc for the number one goalkeeping position after his move from Reading.

Having hindsight is a great thing and I don’t believe we had enough cover up front. Glenn Murray is still getting used to the Cherries style and he is a more physical striker than we are used to seeing. Josh King was probably viewed as a striker that could come on as a sub, but events have rather changed that now. It’s early days though and I imagine the squad will be strengthened in January.

Who have been your star performers and who needs to up their game?
There is at least one name that everyone now knows if they follow football in the Premier League – Matt Ritchie. He has continued where he left off from last season and his goals just get better and better. His work rate though is also extremely high and his call up for Scotland has really propelled his game on to another level – he really is quality. I do have an unsung hero as well though and that is Charlie Daniels at left back. He was likely to be under extreme pressure to hold on to his starting place with Tyrone Mings the new record £8m signing, but he kept his place and even if Mings had stayed fit he would have found it difficult to dislodge our flying left back. Even Robbie Savage commented that he is more like a left winger than a left back when watching him against Newcastle Utd recently.

We know Josh King has found it hard and has not yet scored, but he is starting to improve and the fans just have to stick with him and hope he gets off the mark soon. There have been embarrassing mistakes at the back too and Artur Boruc will be keen to get back to his best having lost his number one spot for the moment.

You seem to have been unlucky with injuries, would you say that is the biggest factor behind your recent dip in form?
It’s very hard to know why the club has suffered so many similar injuries. Glenn Murray said that the pitches were harder this year but who knows if it is a contributing factor or not? Gradel and Mings suffered cruciate ligament injuries in the same game and Callum Wilson was injured away at Stoke City, while Elphick picked up his ankle injury away at Norwich City, so I’m not sure about pitches being the root cause.

I don’t think it is down to training as it won’t have changed dramatically to last season and then we only had Elliott Ward out, as he ran into an advertising hoarding! I think it is generally bad luck and we have seen other teams start to rack up the injuries now as well. The problem for the Cherries is that they have lost Callum Wilson who was key to the way they played and scored most of the goals. Just like Swansea, AFC Bournemouth are struggling to score and the injuries have complicated that, but as Eddie Howe says we have to work with what we have and it’s no good moaning about the injuries. It has to be seen as opportunities for other members of the squad to step up. Harry Arter is back now in midfield having been injured on international duty in the summer for the Republic of Ireland and Steve Cook is likely to feature again at centre back, so it’s not all bad news.

What do you make of Swansea and which players if any do you fear?
Swansea City have a strong squad and play a beautiful passing game but also have more of a cutting-edge than the Cherries at the moment despite your problems. The depth of squad is good at Swansea and they have been playing in Europe, so AFC Bournemouth know they are up against a very good side. The central spine of your team is good with Ashley Williams, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bafetimbi Gomis. There are a number of players that we’ll have to watch out for but but Andre Ayew looks a real handful and should be a good player for Swansea this season.

Predict the score and where both teams will finish…
It is hard for me to go against my team but I do see Swansea being favourites for something like a 2-0 home win. I just hope that you have a barren day in front of goal and that the Cherries are inspired to get three points to climb out of the bottom three. I’d expect Swansea to still finish about 9th this season and I am cling on to 17th for the Cherries now.