Last night, the footballing world was shaken by the news that all neutrals had been dreading. Eddie Howe, Mr. AFC Bournemouth, and the club announced that, after 450 matches as manager and 25 years with the club, they are parting ways by mutual consent. Eddie Howe was one of the most respected managers in the Premier League by fans across the country, having taken AFC Bournemouth from League Two, into the promised land.
The Fairytale Is Over
His team always played some gutsy football, and took their fans on a dream ride. However, it was always felt that AFC Bournemouth had reached some sort of ceiling, being a club with small infrastructure, having a capacity of 11,364, the second-smallest ground in Premier League history. Some high-profile signings were meant to bridge the gap and take them to that next level this season, but that has backfired monumentally as they failed to find their feet, the club got relegated and, ultimately, Eddie Howe departed.
The Underdog Taking It To The Big Dogs
It was a sad end to a story that had thrilled all neutrals to see such a small-town club taking on some of the Premier League’s best. They can look back on some well-earned and hard-fought victories, over Manchester United, Leicester City and Chelsea, and that’s just this season. In fact, they were unbeaten against Chelsea in their last 3 league meetings, going back to the start of last season, taking two wins and a draw against them in the Premier League.
Such was the shock that AFC Bournemouth even made it to the Premier League, they had never played against some of the biggest teams in the Premier League, and some of them not for 50 or so years. For example, before making it into the Premier League, they hadn’t played against Liverpool since 1968, Arsenal since 1987, Chelsea since 1994, Manchester United since 1989 and Tottenham Hotspur since 1957. (All stats from 11v11.com).
What AFC Bournemouth will need to do now is try to hold onto their best players. The picking apart of their squad has started already, with Manchester City coming in with a £41million bid for Nathan Ake. One can expect that other big names in their squad may well follow, with the likes of Callum Wilson, Josh King, Jefferson Lerma, David Brooks and Ryan Fraser all unlikely to be playing with them in The Championship next season after being snapped up.
What they need to do, then, is keep hold of those players that are willing to stay, whilst bringing in a new generation of hard-working players and letting go of those that have been with them since their previous Championship and League One days; Simon Francis, Andrew Surman, Adam Smith and Steve Cook to name a few.
For me, these players staying this whole time had kept AFC Bournemouth having that hometown feel certainly, but also probably impeded their progress as a club. They need, now, to focus on transforming the club into one that looks like they’ve just dropped out the Premier League and are looking to go straight back up. To do this, they need to reform their squad, get some hungry, new blood in and put last season’s failures behind them, the neutrals are behind you AFC Bournemouth!