Here we are, a matter of days into the new football season and it already looks as if it could be an on/off season for AFC Bournemouth. A season which gave fans much expectation after the exploits of last season was brought firmly back down to earth within a couple of hours on the first day of the season at The Valley. 3-0 was the scoreline away to Charlton Athletic, and although many would not bat an eyelid at this result, the Bournemouth faithful were hoping for a much more promising start to the season.
However, on Tuesday evening Bournemouth had an early break from the league with a Carling Cup tie at home to Dagenham & Redbridge. This was almost definitely a welcome break for manager Lee Bradbury as it would have given him an opportunity to try out different tactics before the next league game. And as it turned out, this proved dividends. Bournemouth ran out 5-0 winners against the Daggers, with young striker Lyle Taylor continuing his pre-season form with a late brace after coming on as a substitute. Perhaps Taylor’s exploits can enable him to keep his place for this weekend’s league game against Sheffield Wednesday.
More known as a popular seaside resort for families from all across the British Isles, and a hot-bed for stag and hen do’s, you could be excused for failing to realise that the South Coast team of Bournemouth even existed. Lower league existence is all there has been for the club, barring a second tier stint in the late 80’s under none other than good old ‘Arry Redknapp. However, with a loyal chairman finally at the helm, and a managerial partnership of ex-players Lee Bradbury and Steve Fletcher, things are finally looking up for AFC Bournemouth.
After such an overachieving 2010-11 campaign by AFC Bournemouth, you would be excused for thinking that solidifying a position within League One would be the main aim for the coming season. However, this thought couldn’t be further from the mind of the staff and players and there is a heightened sense of optimism all around the town. Taking the positives from the experiences of last season, along with the heartache suffered in Play-off semi-final penalty shootout defeat to Huddersfield, Bournemouth are pushing to go one better this season with a full-on assault on the automatic promotion places to the Championship.
The preparation required for such an assault has not been on the agenda for the Cherries for many a year. This expectation has been proven with the many signings that have been made along with the inevitable departures. The most major of these departures being Team Captain Jason Pearce, 23, being sold to Portsmouth for a relatively respectable £300,000. Also on the exit list is domineering midfielder Anton Robinson, who has hooked up with the team who drew to a close Bournemouth’s playoff aspirations last season, Huddersfield Town. In previous seasons, transfers such as these would have been followed by no replacements for one reason or another, but with the renewed optimism comes realised potential. The potential in this case has been the signing of experienced centre back Adam Barrett, 31, from Crystal Palace, and Barrett has slotted into the Team Captain vacancy Pearce left with unnerved confidence during the pre-season friendlies. Barrett capped off his excellent pre-season form with a sterling performance and a goal in Bournemouth’s penultimate friendly against his old club Crystal Palace.
The defence has also been reinforced with the addition of veteran goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan, 32, from Portsmouth. Flahavan looks favourite to start as number one ahead of Schwan Jalal, who is widely expected to leave the club when his contract ends due to many interested parties. Another stand-out signing has been 20 year old left back Scott Malone, in a six month loan deal from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Malone, or @benditscotty as he is known to his Twitter followers, provides a welcome alternative to ageing full back Warren Cummings. His position at left back seems assured despite only being at the club for a matter of days, partly down to a thunderbolt of a strike against Cardiff in the most recent pre-season friendly.
Perhaps the best bit of business in the off-season is the (at time of writing!) ability to keep hold of star striker Danny Ings. After a string of excellent performances last season, Ings, 19, has been coveted by many teams in the Premier League and Championship, with even Liverpool being mentioned earlier in the summer. Usually the end result of such interest would only mean one thing, the player leaving, but the stance set by the chairman is something Bournemouth fans can at least take satisfaction in. Chairman Eddie Mitchell’s promise that Danny Ings will become AFC Bournemouth’s first £1m player means that even if he were to leave it would provide valuable funds to strengthen the squad. So, every cloud and all that, but we still want you to stay, Danny.
12.07.2011 – Hamworthy Rec 0 – 10 Bournemouth
14.07.2011 – Poole Town 4 – 4 Bournemouth
16.07.2011 – Bournemouth 1-1 Glenn Hoddle Academy (Bournemouth won 3-2 on Pens)
17.07.2011 – Bournemouth 0-2 Saarbrucken
19.07.2011 – Wimborne Town 0-3 Bournemouth
21.07.2011 – Winchester City 2-2 Bournemouth
23.07.2011 – Bournemouth 2-1 Cardiff City
Bournemouth beat a strong Cardiff City side 2-1 in what was a promising friendly, getting off the mark early thanks to a terrific 25 yard strike by new recruit Scott Malone. Steve Lovell doubled the lead for the Cherries in the second half before Andrew Taylor pulled one back for the Cardiff late on.
30.07.2011 – Bournemouth 3 – 1 Crystal Palace
01.08.2011 – Dorchester Town 0 – 1 Bournemouth
No doubt results such as those against the two Championship sides would have had Bournemouth fans licking their lips at the prospect of Charlton away on the first day of the season. However, with pre-season games often misguiding fans on what to expect from the competitive games ahead, Lee Bradbury will be keen to ensure supporter and players expectations are kept realistic going into the new season.
Written by Craig Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth Blogger
Craig tweets @craigdwhittaker