In a week where arguably the greatest manager of all time was commemorated with the renaming at the North Stand at Old Trafford to ‘The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand’, you can’t help but wonder what bosses at AFC Bournemouth were thinking when deciding to rename their own North Stand. The North Stand at Dean Court, which is occupied by the most loyal Cherries fans, was renamed in homage of Steve Fletcher back in March 2010, complete with a four-foot image of the less than prolific striker’s head.
No-one can question ‘Big Fletch’ when it comes down to loyalty to the club, amassing over 700 appearances for the Cherries between 1992-2011, minus short spells at Chesterfield (07/08) and Crawley Town (08/09). However, in his 17 years plus at the club, Steve Fletcher has only managed to reach a total goal tally of 120. That’s around about a one-in-six goals to games ratio. Some may say that this criticism is unfair and that he is considered more of a ‘goal provider’ than a goal scorer himself, such as when assisting strike partner Jermain Defoe to set a record of scoring 10 goals in 10 successive league games on a loan spell in the 2000/01 season. However, in over 700 games at a club which has never been higher than the third tier of English football during his time at the club, you would have expected a little more in the goals department from someone who is deemed a ‘legend’ on the terraces at Dean Court.
When you look at other clubs in England who have honoured players by naming a stand after them, it puts the Steve Fletcher Stand into context:
Liverpool – in terms of trophies, the most successful English team of all time – have no stands named after any ex, or indeed current, players. ‘What, even with all those great players who have played for them; Dalglish, Souness, Keegan, Hughes, Rush, Barnes, Clemence?’ I hear you ask. The fact that they would have to have an 11-sided stadium to be able to give a name to each who deserve it may come into question, but maybe they feel that none of these players have truly done enough to become part of what that club is. After all, no player is bigger than the club, right?
A quick whizz around the rest of the Premier League sees a many clubs who have chosen to honour a particular past player.
Manchester City renamed the Etihad Stadium’s West Stand ‘The Colin Bell Stand’ in 2004, in honour of the player who is widely regarded as their greatest ever player (although that may change soon if David Silva continues to perform as of recent!).
Newcastle United have got ‘The Milburn Stand’ named after the 1950’s legend Jackie Milburn, who scored 177 goals in 353 league games for the Magpies in a fourteen year playing spell.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have renamed every stand of their Molineux ground, each for their own respectable reasons. All time leading goalscorer Steve Bull is commemorated along with previous player and manager Stan Cullis. The first footballer to ever earn 100 caps for their country, Billy Wright, also has his name on a stand along with former Chairman Jack Harris.
As these Premier League clubs show, there is a general reluctance to give the honour of the name of a stand to a former player. In fact, many renamed stands come about from fan polls that are conducted many years after the playing spell of that particular have long ended. Steve Fletcher is the current Assistant Manager of AFC Bournemouth. He is also still a current member of playing squad. To honour such a player seems a bit humorous, particularly in the view of visiting players and fans; after all, that four foot image on top of the stand isn’t exactly inconspicuous!
‘Big Fletch’ is widely tipped to become a future manger of the Cherries. So who knows, he may just earn the honour that The Steve Fletcher Stand gives him in the many years to come. Let’s hope so anyway!
Written by Craig Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s AFC Bournemouth Blogger
Craig tweets at @craigdwhittaker