By Sean Barker
This weekend AFC Bournemouth finally kicks off their debut season in the Premier League.
Normally the off-season drags along (unless of course, there is an international tournament for England to perform abysmally in) but that Championship trophy lifting day at Charlton only seems like yesterday.
I think it’s because there hasn’t been a day since then when I haven’t talked about Bournemouth, or read something about them.
I remember the old days when we wanted to forget about a season while we were still playing in it. Those dark days where we would quickly cast aside thoughts of our team during the summer break so we could then mentally deal with yet another season in the third tier of English football.
Those days are gone. The club have made headlines throughout the world, and have now been elevated to what appears to be the status of ‘everyone’s favourite second club’.
But it is on the pitch where it matters most, and this will be one of the most challenging seasons the club has ever faced.
At centre-back we have our ever-presents from last year in Tommy Elphick & Steve Cook. I hope they are a success as have been an integral part of our rise and Captain Elphick has lead the team this far. Elphick and his superstitions.
Our style of play is suited to an attacking game which is often based on going for the jugular and forcing ourselves on teams to a point that we eventually put them away. (Great quote from Elphick when we had just gone 8 nil up vs Birmingham “We got in a huddle and I said let’s go for 10”).
Last season in the Championship we had the highest shots per game ratio in the league with an average of 16.67 (the ‘.67’ must have been a cross-shot).
Callum Wilson signing a new 4 year deal was HUGE for the team.
Although you never really know how a player is going to perform once they step up a level, Wilson has all the qualities to succeed. He is fast which will worry even the best defenders in the land because for all the defensive talent in the world, if you can’t catch your opponent then you can’t stop them.
He has a lot of strength on the ball which we saw last year as he held his own against some big boys. He has a high level of technical skill on the ball which is why he was able to ‘win’ so many penalties last season. Often he will keep the ball in the area longer than you would expect a player to as he knows if he gives moving with his quick feet then the chances are someone is going to chop him down. That’s not diving, that’s just utilising your ability and getting stopped by a tackle that doesn’t get the ball.
And so to our new attacking signings… And what a line-up!
First up Joshua King, the Norwegian international signed from Blackburn. From the games I have seen in pre-season he appears to be strong, quick, and have a keen eye for goal much like Callum Wilson. He can play out wide, up the top, or in the number 10 role so will be a handy addition.
Christian Atsu the silky skilled winger (who can also play as an attacking mid) signed on loan from Chelsea after having had a fairly uneventful loan spell last year with Everton. However, he did have a cracking African Cup of Nations tournament for Ghana and was named MVP of the tournament.
As good as he is, he is going to have to work hard to displace Ritchie from a starting position which is only going to be a positive for the team as whoever gets given the start is going to have to impress to keep it. Atsu could be a very exciting player for us.
We then had a double-signing bonanza day just a week before the season opener with firstly the news that the long-running saga of signing Max Gradel had been completed from St Etienne, and then the announcement that Lee Tomlin had also arrived from Middlesbrough.
Excluding the vital new contract signing of Callum Wilson, bringing Gradel to the club was THE biggest signing we have made this summer.
Even Jose Mourinho is a fan with him coming out in the press to say Gradel is good enough to play for Chelsea.
If we do go down, we are going down scoring by the looks of it!
But, I think we are going to be ok. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up sitting somewhere in the 12th to 14th position come the end of the season.
We genuinely have a very talented bunch of players and with Eddie Howe in charge, we have a manager who is just getting better and better and that tactical strength combined with the players ability is going to be enough for us to remain in the division.
In reality, we just need 3 teams to be worse than us for this year to be deemed a success.
As much as it will be potentially daunting for us to travel to a sold out Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Emirates etc, equally teams will find it tough coming to little old Dean Court with our 11,400 attendance. Of course, all these teams would have played at small grounds in cup competitions against lesser opposition but this will be different. It will be a league game, against a team in the division on merit. And no doubt the Bournemouth fans will be loud… RED ARMY!
We will lose games.
And we will need to deal with these losses, learn from them, and move on.
But I think we’ll also see some big wins. Man United at Dean Court is already one game I can’t wait to see and would love us to pick up a win in that one.
Whatever happens, this will be an amazing experience for the club and all our supporters. Seeing us kick off tomorrow in the Premier League is something that we really never, ever did see happening.
So we will enjoy it.
Make the most of it.
And hopefully get to do it all over again next year.