A quick look at most of the pre-season forecasts put a certain South Coast team firmly among the favourites to be relegated in their first season in the Premier League. The instinct might have been for most fans and so-called experts to surmise that if two of the three teams going down last season came from the clubs that came up, the Cherries should be good candidates for the drop.
Yet, the team that survived last season was Leicester City, who were the Championship title winners the year before. AFC Bournemouth similarly went up as champions and are used to winning games. Moreover, they are a team that play confidently away from home with small numbers of their own fans in tow, and yet still seem to get results. It’s early days, but the aim is certainly to be out of the bottom three come next May.
If we look back at who was relegated in the 2013-14 season, you’ll find it was Cardiff City, Norwich City and Fulham, but only Cardiff had won promotion from the Championship in the previous season. The other two teams that were promoted in 2012-13 were Hull City and Crystal Palace, and they both survived. So it is possible to survive promotion to the top tier, unless of course your team is QPR, who never seem able to stay up.
What gives me the confidence about the Cherries avoiding a one-way ticket back to the Championship is their strength in keeping to their philosophy. While visiting the Etihad, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane is truly a step-up in class for Eddie Howe’s men, they will not be daunted by appearances at such grounds. They’ll play in the same way that has served them so well in recent seasons. Wide pitches and big grounds are just what they like and the larger capacity stadiums will only enable them to use their dangerous wide players all the more.
Moreover, there is international pedigree in Eddie Howe’s squad now. Experience is starting to build with full caps already for Matt Ritchie and Harry Arter, alongside the even larger number of call-ups for Artur Boruc and Shaun MacDonald. With young English internationals also in the squad in the form of Callum Wilson and Baily Cargill, there is an onus on attracting young players that are comfortable on the ball. While the home-grown talent is getting better, Howe is also not afraid to bring foreign players in and Fillipo Costa is another example of how the club has been guiding its eyes to overseas for development squad players, like Australian keeper Jordan Holmes and Ireland striker Josh O’Hanlon. It’s not just about the first team, and the club is building all the way from the youth set up to ensure there is a strong base with which to bring players through in future years.
Scratch the surface and you’ll find that this new looking club crest, that is mixing it with those oh-so-familiar heavyweights, is going about its business astutely. It has not frittered away its new-found wealth on expensive transfer fees and is aiming to show that just like Swansea City, who were diagnosed with predictions of instant relegation from the big league in the 2011-12, that you can build a team to survive at this level on a tight budget.
Check out my blog, Cherry Chimes.