AFC Bournemouth are a Premier League club.
If you had asked the clubs players and supporters if this was possible merely seven years ago, you would have been denounced as a madman. Deep in the relegation zone of League Two, Bournemouth were close to slipping out of English football’s organized structure. Only a brave heart manager managed to save them from the abyss. It was this same manager that oversaw promotion after promotion, and now the Cherries, as Bournemouth are popularly known, are sitting pretty in the EPL. It’s a story worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, and it deserves to be heard.
Bournemouth have spent most of their 116 year old existence in the bottom divisions of the English football structure. Their glory days (before the present, of course) were in the early 1980s when Harry Redknapp managed the club and took them to the Second division for the first time, as Third Division champions in 1987. These lasted for only a couple of seasons however as Bournemouth went back down. Redknapp resigned and Tony Pulis arrived, but he couldn’t do much either. Financial troubles began to mount for the club and soon they were staring at a $7 million debt, on the brink of folding. The quiet English town’s residents managed to pool in some money and the club was saved.
A brief period of relative normalcy followed but Bournemouth were close to liquidation again in 2008, when they were forced into administration and docked 10 points. Relegation to League Two followed. They were still unable to solve the mess, and the League docked them 17 points at the start of the 2008-09 season. Thus, with -17 points, Bournemouth looked to be on their way out. It was then that in stepped miracle man Eddie Howe, and Bournemouth’s remarkable ascent began.
Eddie Howe is Bournemouth through and through. He started his career here as a defender, playing for four years before he was signed by Portsmouth. Injury prone, he couldn’t make much of an impact at Pompey or any of the other clubs he was subsequently loaned to. A twist of fate brought him back to Bournemouth, on loan. He played well and given his endearment to them and the perilous state of the club’s finances, the fans pooled in £21,000 to sign him permanently. Thus loved, Howe joined the club’s coaching staff when further injury ended his footballing innings. Becoming full-time coach in January 2009, he engineered the club’s miracle escape from relegation against all odds. Next season, fending off interest from numerous other clubs, he stayed put at Bournemouth to lead them back into League One.
However, Bournemouth couldn’t keep away the circling vultures for much longer. In January 2011, Howe moved on to Burnley. Two dismal seasons followed where he couldn’t do much at Turf Moor. In October 2012 he returned to Bournemouth. He carried on where he had left off and led them to the Championship, when they finished second in League One. This was followed by a 10th position finish in 2013-14 in the second division. The Cherries were flying, and deservedly so. 2014-15 brought even more joy to the club’s supporters- the club capped off their remarkable period of success when they beat Charlton 3-0 on the final day of the season to be crowned winners of the league and secured promotion to the English top flight for the first time in history.
Not all can be attributed to the sheer grit, determination and will power of the players and the manager though. Money played no small part- Russian oil magnate Maxim Denim bought 50% of the club in 2011 and the rest an year later, pumping in $40 million to save the club and turn around the perilous state of its finances. But if you consider the $150 million even the bottom placed team in the EPL gets, it’s a good investment from all angles.
Bournemouth have laboured and suffered enough to get here, and now will fight their hearts out to retain their status amongst England’s best. Their rise is nothing short of a fairy tale, and surely more is to follow.