10 reasons to fall in love with AFC Bournemouth
PUBLISHED: 15:42 05 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:42 05 February 2016
AFC Bournemouth/Digital South
Andy Greeves talks to AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, club legend Steve Fletcher and ex-Bloc Party drummer and Cherries superfan Matt Tong about why we should love their local team
1. Be part of history
For the first time in the club’s 126 year history AFC Bournemouth are playing in Barclays Premier League - English football’s top division. Victories, including those over reigning champions Chelsea and Manchester United, mean the Cherries, as they are affectionately known by fans, have been the talk of the football world.
“There have been some great highlights this season - beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United at home will live long in the memory,” reflects AFC Bournemouth manager, Eddie Howe. “The West Ham United match (which saw the Cherries achieve their first-ever Barclays Premier League victory with a 4-3 win at Upton Park) was equally significant and the moment we arrived in the league.”
2. A football fairytale
The Cherries might be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, but it wasn’t always like that. As recently as the 2009-10, the club plied its trade in League Two, the bottom division of the Football League, prior to promotions in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
“The Cinderella story of nearly going out of business and just staying in the Football League to getting promoted to the Premier League five years later has captivated people far and wide,” smiles former AFC Bournemouth striker, Steve Fletcher, who is now the club’s Head of Recruitment and Club Ambassador. Steve played a total of 726 matches for AFC Bournemouth and scored 122 goals during two spells with the club between 1992-2007 and 2008-2013.
3. Making footballing legends
Steve Fletcher is one of a host of former players to have achieved legendary status with AFC Bournemouth fans. The challenge for manager, Eddie Howe is to discover the new talent who in time could be talked about in the same breath as Fletcher.
“When it comes to recruiting new players character is the key attribute we are looking for,” outlines Howe. “We want players that work hard, show a good attitude and most importantly, want to learn. If they have the ability to match that attitude - that is what makes an AFC Bournemouth player for me.”
4. Thrills on the terraces
The fans at the Vitality Stadium, AFC Bournemouth’s home ground at Kings Park, have been treated to a host of memorable matches in recent years, not least those en route to Premiere League promotion last season. The Cherries won 26 games and drew 12 to claim the Sky Bet Championship title, scoring a staggering 98 goals in the process.
As well as a strong local following the Cherries have supporters all over the world, including former Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong, who was born in Bournemouth but now lives in New York. “There is a football bar called Legends on the same block as the Empire State building, I go there to watch AFC Bournemouth games on TV,” says Tong. “Last season when we beat Middlesbrough 3-0, during that 12-game run, when (Harry) Arter’s goal went in I accidently kicked my bar stool so hard I thought I had broken my foot!”
5. Anything is possible
AFC Bournemouth’s motto is Together, Anything Is Possible and the hard work and dedication shown by the Cherries’ staff and players in training and matches is testament to that. “If you mix talent and hard work, I think you can surprise even yourself,” reflects Howe, giving his own definition of the club’s motto. “On the back of getting promotion to the Premier League, our players’ profiles have raised. But their minds are rarely away from the work they need to put in on the training pitch and on match day.”
6. Taking on football’s giants
Though AFC Bournemouth has managed to beat some of the Barclays Premier League’s heavyweights this season, in October they experienced defeat against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Ever-philosophical, manager Eddie Howe took those losses on the chin and helped his players move on. “When you play against teams like that - top, established sides with great attacking players - you could have a difficult afternoon if you’re not 100% on the top of your game. What we focused on was the reaction to those games, learning from those experiences and coming back stronger.”
7. Loyal fans
The role played by the loyal supporters at any football club cannot be underestimated. AFC Bournemouth’s passionate fans are in manager Eddie Howe’s mind a ‘twelfth man’ for the team and he is truly grateful for their efforts. “As far as our fans go, they have been truly magnificent,” declares Howe. “They have never turned against the players when we’ve had difficult matches and their support has been unwavering throughout.”
8. Manager of the decade
In April 2015 Eddie Howe was named as the Football League’s ‘Manager of the Decade’ in recognition of his achievements with the Cherries. Colleague and former team-mate Steve Fletcher understands why Howe is held in such high regard. “Eddie Howe, and I have to mention his assistant Jason Tindall too, are absolutely meticulous in everything they do at this club,” enthuses Fletcher. “If anything is going to give us a chance to succeed as a club, then it is having Eddie Howe as manager.”
9. A club for the community
Chances are you’ll have seen AFC Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher out and about in Dorset. In his role as Club Ambassador, he engages with the local community on a regular basis. “My work in the community, which includes visiting schools and hospitals and attending charity events and so on, is something that myself and the club take very seriously,” comments Fletcher, who was honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award by the Football League in 2014 for his contribution to the sport. “I remember football clubs came to visit my school and that can be very inspirational for youngsters. There are a lot of clubs that say they are doing things in the community, but at Bournemouth we truly are. I always try to make every event count.”
10. An exciting future
It’s fair to say that AFC Bournemouth’s supporters have experienced a rollercoaster ride, both in 2015-16 and throughout their history. But who knows what excitement the future holds for the Cherries?
“You can’t be convinced of anything in football,” Howe reflects. “Last season proved that - in terms of us winning the Championship having not really been given much of a chance of promotion by anyone outside of the club. I’m not going to make any predictions about where we are going to finish this season, but as long as we believe in each other and stay true to ourselves, we give ourselves the best chance of success.”
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