Success with a Cherry on top – AFC Bournemouth’s rise to the top – Part One

Every fan remembers their first game, it’s the one that sets you on your path to following your chosen team. Whether you support your local club or are influenced by a family member, you become invested in them, and follow their every exploit almost religiously. For me, my first game was 2nd May 1995, when AFC Bournemouth took on Shrewsbury Town in the final game of the season. With Bournemouth having had a fairly terrible season, an upturn in form saw them just one win away from securing their Division 2 status going into the final game.

The fan base was on tenterhooks, as the financial situation at the club wasn’t great, the prospect of dropping into the bottom tier of the Football League was a daunting one, as it could have meant the end of AFC Bournemouth. Fortunately on that day, Bournemouth flew out of the blocks, and a goal from Scott Mean and 2 from Steve Robinson sealed an emphatic 3-0 win, with the fans, and this 10-year-old writer, storming the pitch in celebration at the full-time whistle. From that day I was a Cherries fan through and through.

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The Goldsands Stadium, or Dean Court as it is more commonly known, home to AFC Bournemouth since 1910. Picture from pinterest


Soon after, Trevor Watkins brought the club back from the brink of bankruptcy by turning the club into a “Community Club”, but the club still had debts that they were struggling to keep up with, and by 2005 these debts had doubled. Fans clubbed together as best they could and started several innovative schemes such as CherryChange, CherryShare and PlayerShare, with the latter being instrumental in Eddie Howe’s return to the club in 2004. By 2005, Dean Court Stadium was sold for £3.5m and leased back to the club, saving them from administration.


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A young Eddie Howe celebrating a win in 2004 after his return from Portsmouth, made possible by the PlayerShare initiative. Picture from


Sadly, this didn’t last long, as by 2008 the club went back into administration, only this time the club dropped into the bottom tier of the Football League, with a 17 point penalty to boot. Most people thought that this was to be the end for the club, a 17 point penalty being too much for the club to overcome, especially as the club was under a transfer embargo at the time as well. With Kevin Bond sacked just a month into the season, Jimmy Quinn took over, but only lasted 3 months himself before being sacked. With the club in turmoil, facing extinction, and with extremely limited resources, Eddie Howe was tasked with managing the club until the end of the season.

What happened next was beyond anyone’s imagination. Eddie revived the club, like a phoenix from the ashes, and on 25th April 2009, Club legend Steve Fletcher, brought back into the fold by Eddie Howe having been released by Kevin Bond in 2007, scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Grimsby Town. There were wild scenes at the final whistle, with Bournemouth having once again saved themselves from the threat of extinction.


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Steve Fletcher celebrates scoring the goal that secured the clubs Greatest Escape, overcoming a 17 point deduction to avoid relegation and quite possible extinction. Picture from Bournemouth Echo


From the start of the 2009/10 season, it was clear that there were big changes afoot, the relaxed transfer embargo meant that whilst all of the club’s transfer dealings would be closely monitored, they were able to strengthen the squad again.

The club achieved promotion to League One by finishing as runners-up to runaway Champions Notts County. That summer Marc Pugh and Harry Arter joined the club, and are still part of the first team squad now. Eddie Howe left for Burnley towards the end of the 2010/11 season, however his leadership had left the club in a play off position, with Lee Bradbury taking the managerial reins after Howe’s departure, he got us over the line and into the playoffs, but unfortunately we lost the two-legged tie to Huddersfield on penalties after a 4-4 aggregate draw.

The 2011/12 season was an interesting one, as Russian multimillionaire Maxim Demin became co-owner with Eddie Mitchell, paying just under £1 million for his stake in the club. however, results were not as strong as the previous season, and it saw Bournemouth drop back into mid table, almost 20 points off the pace for the playoffs, but the clubs position in the league was never in any doubt as they finished in the top half of the table, even though Lee Bradbury was relieved of his duties in March 2012. Paul Groves took over in May of that year, but was sacked after just 5 months as the club languished in the relegation places.



Eddie Howe returned to the club after a brief spell with Burnley in October 2012. Picture from


Something had to be done quickly to stop the club from making a giant leap backwards, and after a lot of speculation, Eddie Howe was prised away from Burnley to return to his spiritual home, and immediately turned around the club, bringing in several players. Lewis Grabban, Tommy Elphick, Ryan Fraser and Matt Ritchie to name just a few. Instantly results changed and the Cherries shot up the table, and with just a handful of game remaining secured promotion to the Championship, only losing out on the League One title in the last minutes of the final fixtures as Doncaster scored a last-minute winner in their game to knock Bournemouth off the top of the table.

It was a huge achievement for Bournemouth to reach the Championship, and no one was really sure how they would perform. Early games showed how different the quality was, but Bournemouth soon acclimatised and finished their first season in the 2nd tier in a highly respectable 10th place. It looked like Bournemouth truly belonged in the Championship, with many fans believing that we could become a real force in the Championship within a few years. What happened next no one would have dared to dream, let alone predicted.

With the previous years top scorer, Lewis Grabban, accepting a £3 million move to recently relegated Norwich City, the money was reinvested into bringing in Callum Wilson from Coventry City, and Andrew Surman from Norwich City. Also joining were Junior Stanislas and Dan Gosling, both dropping down from the Premier League, with Gosling stating that the management team at the club had convinced him that he had to join the club.



Callum Wilson’s goals and Andrew Surman’s control of the midfield were leading factors in Bournemouth’s Championship winning campaign. Picture from

Bournemouth started the season with two wins, but then went on a run of 1 win in 7 matches. 4th October 2014 was when the Cherries began to show their credentials, as they embarked on a 14 match unbeaten run, putting them top of the pile as unlikely champions-elect by 13th December, where they remained untouched until February of 2015, where a 5 match run without a win took the club down to 4th and out of the promotion places. they quickly recovered though and went the final 13 games of the season unbeaten, effectively securing promotion to the Premier League in a 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers on 27th April. Technically it wasn’t mathematically confirmed, but in order for Norwich to pip them to the post they needed to win their match, and hope that Bournemouth lost to Charlton by a 19 goal deficit.


A picture I took at my local bookmakers the day before the Charlton game. Safe to say the bookies didn’t believe that this would happen either!

Going into the final game of the season, with promotion effectively confirmed, and Watford leading the way in the Championship title race, Bournemouth set their focus on achieving a total of 100 goals in the Championship. Bournemouth made light work of the Addicks, and were 3-0 up going into the final 5 minutes. As injury time approached, the away crowd suddenly let out a huge roar of celebration, as confirmation came through that Sheffield Wednesday striker Atdhe Nuhiu had scored a last-minute equaliser, which meant that Bournemouth would go top of the league by 1 point. When the final whistle blew, Watford’s draw against Sheffield Wednesday was confirmed, and Bournemouth were confirmed as Champions. The impossible dream had become a reality, and Bournemouth’s rise through the divisions to the top table of English Football had been realised.

As club captain Tommy Elphick lifted the Championship trophy high above his head, the travelling support let out a thunderous roar, and the players celebrated with a lap of honour around The Valley. Eddie Howe had done what no one thought possible, and secured his Iconic status within the club and in supporters eyes. Callum Wilson led the way with 23 goals in his first (and only) Championship campaign to date, and with Artur Boruc keeping 16 clean sheets during the season, the defence was just as formidable as the attack.


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Bournemouth celebrate winning the Sky Bet Championship at the Valley, and promotion to the Premier League. A day that I and many others Cherries fans never dreamed we would see. Picture from

Speculation begun as to who we would bring in and strengthen the squad with ahead of our first Premier League season, with many fans salivating at the prospect of Premier League football. Many names were banded around, with reports throwing around figures previously unheard of in Bournemouth’s history, but as has become his modus operandi, Eddie Howe kept his cards close to his chest…

In my next piece, I’ll go into more detail on the Cherries first campaign in the Premier League, and the following two seasons. In the meantime, check out some of the other brilliant articles we have here at Dictate The Game.

‘Started from the bottom now we here’ – An FM Guide: Going from Semi-Pro to Pro – Ryan’s amazing guide on turning a lower league team into a competitive force, based on his own successes.

Players of the 90’s: Tony Adams – Tony Adams is an Arsenal legend, and had a very interesting and successful playing career. Here, I give a detailed run down of his career, and get the insight of an Arsenal fan on his impact

Will England win the 2018 FIFA World Cup? – Football Manager 2018 Simulation – Will we? Won’t we? Chances are we won’t, but in this experiment we see if England are capable of winning the World Cup in the virtual world of Football Manager.

Make sure you follow us on our social media accounts, this is the best way to keep up to date with all things Dictate The Game.


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