What a season! Promotion was good but Bournemouth went and stole the league title in the last seconds thanks to a Sheffield Wednesday goal at Watford. The club will be under no illusions as to how difficult the step up will be but they’ll certainly be up for the challenge.
Last Season: Championship (1st)
Manager: Eddie Howe
GKs: Lee Camp, Ryan Allsop, Adam Federici, Artur Boruc
DFs: Simon Francis, Steve Cook, Tommy Elphick, Charlie Daniels, Adam Smith, Elliott Ward, Baily Cargill, Stephane Zubar, Tyrone Mings, Sylvain Distin, Filippo Costa
MFs: Dan Gosling, Andrew Surman, Marc Pugh, Harry Arter, Shaun MacDonald, Junior Stanislas, Matt Ritchie, Eunan O’Kane, Harry Cornick
FWs: Tokelo Rantie, Callum Wilson, Yann Kermorgant, Joshua King, Christian Atsu
In: Artur Boruc (Souhampton), Adam Federici (Reading), Joshua King (Blackburn Rovers), Christian Atsu (Chelsea – Loan), Tyrone Mings (Ipswich Town), Sylvain Distin (Everton), Filippo Costa (Chievo – Loan)
Out: Miles Addison (Released), Benjamin Buchel (Released), Mohamed Coulibaly (Released), Darryl Flahavan (Released), Ian Harte (Released), Josh McQuoid (Luton Town), Joe Partington (Eastleigh), Ryan Fraser (Ipswich Town – Loan), Brett Pitman (Ipswich Town), Jayden Stockley (Portsmouth – Loan)
First Six: Aston Villa (H), Liverpool (A), West Ham United (A), Leicester City (H), Norwich City (A), Sunderland (H)
Likely Line-up: (4-4-2) Boruc – Smith, Elphick, Distin, Mings – Ritchie, Surman, Arter, Atsu – Wilson, Kermogant
A word from…Steve Fletcher
On his personal ups and downs with the club The only word for it is ‘surreal’. When you think back to where we were and the 17 point deduction [imposed on Bournemouth in 2008 for not following the Football League’s insolvency rules] in League Two, when we were one game away from going out of the Football League, hand on heart, I could never have foreseen the changes that have happened.
It means everything to a lot of good people. If we hadn’t have stayed in the league (in 2008-09) the club would probably have folded, and we’d have had to start again at a very low level of non-league which would have made what’s happened to us now impossible. I personally feel grateful that I could play a small part in what’s happened by scoring that goal against Grimsby to secure our league status (in the penultimate game of 2008-09). That’s still the moment that fans come up and talk to me about to this day.
On how its all come together Because we’ve got one of the best managers in English football, if not the best. Simple as that. Our owner, Maxim Demin, has backed Eddie to the hilt, and given him more or less everything he wanted, because he trusts him, and it’s that trust we all have in the manager that is at the heart of what we’ve achieved. From early on, once everyone saw the philosophies of Eddie Howe laid out, it’s clear that the club was only going to go in one direction.
Other than Eddie and Jason (Tindall, Howe’s assistant), you’ve got the Under 21 coach Stephen Purches, the youth team manager Carl Fletcher and everybody else all doing great jobs all to our plan and to our philosophy.
Everyone here has got love for the football club and love for the manager, and we’re all pulling in the same direction, on and off the pitch. Everybody wants to succeed. Away from the playing side, the recruitment department-where I’m involved-the medical staff, the media department, everyone at the club is together and that’s what you always need to achieve success-that togetherness.
On backing the manager whatever happens It’s absolutely imperative, as he is at the heart of everything we’ve achieved. He’s high up on other teams’ registers [because of his achievements at Bournemouth] and, I know I’m biased because Eddie’s my friend, but I think he could end up being England manager one day. It’s imperative we stick with him, no matter what. His work ethic, his desire and his ethos are all beyond belief. Eddie chooses the right people, and wants specific people for specific jobs.
He won’t change his philosophy, he’ll send his team out looking to entertain and play football the right way. Obviously survival is our main objective this coming season, but what we also want to do is make a positive impression on the Premier League.
On ever expecting such a change in fortune It’s probably happened a bit sooner than I would have dared to dream about, but it’s not totally out of the blue. Once we started climbing, slowly but surely, after we went up from League Two (in 2009-10) then got out of League One (in 2012-13) into the Championship, I started to believe we could do something special. At the start of last season, I thought ‘We’ve got half a chance here’. I thought that automatic promotion might have been beyond us, but I thought that we had a good chance of getting in the play-offs, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that we did what we did.
On summer recruitment Doing our business early is what the manager wants to do. That’s the way he works and that’s the way we have to do things. I agree with him on that. In pre-season, it’s imperative that 95% of the squad is in place before you’ve started training. It’s counter-productive to start pre-season training without most of the squad in place because you’ll hamper yourself if you’re constantly introducing new players who don’t know the systems and philosophies throughout the summer.
Having said that, we still want to do a little bit of business in the coming weeks (Bournemoth signed Sylvain Distin in the aftermath of this interview), but not too much more. As I say, we’ve got most of the squad we want here now.
We’re building things stage by stage here and the next step is to make Dean Court a fortress, make it difficult for teams to come here and try to survive in the Premier League and make an impression.
On scouting I wouldn’t say that being in the Premier League has changed our recruitment policy. Our methods have remained the same as they were. We work in-depth all the time. We like to know every little thing about a player, on and off the pitch, what they’re like as a person and what they’re like in the dressing room. We like to know about a player’s personal life and what he’s like in that, as well as how good a player he is. One player of the wrong personality type can destroy team spirit, and we would not entertain that. If a player doesn’t satisfy those criteria, we won’t sign him.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Memories of Blackpool. They’ll entertain us and have everyone rooting for them but it’s difficult to see enough quality there to stay up. In a compact ground they’ll certainly take some scalps though.
Key Player: Matt Ritchie – Superb last season and looks like a player tailor-made for the step up to the Premier League, if he’s influential then Bournemouth have got every chance.
One to Watch: Christian Atsu – Came over to England with a lot of promise and a big reputation but his loan spell at Everton never really worked. If he’s given more game time on the south coast then he could be a great loan signing from Eddie Howe.