Sunday, 31 May 2015

Cherries MLS bound for summer training

The Vitals website was able to give Bournemouth fans a heads up on Philadelphia being the summer camp destination for the Cherries this year. While Salisbury FC of the Wessex League are also said to be on the itinerary on Tuesday 21 July it is the pull of the US that intrigues me. Philadelphia Union are the East Coast MLS team that we'll probably get to know a little more about in the coming weeks even though their players might not be household names to us, barring Maurice Edu for those who already know he used to play for Stoke City.
AFCB seem to be heading for the USA this summer.
The MLS has really taken hold now and with the transfer of more British players to the league it is gaining more interest in the UK. The training facilities will be as good as anything in the UK for the Cherries and I suppose the weather will also be favourable, although it want be like LA for the players. Nick Sakiewicz, Philadelphia Union's CEO was present at the Bolton Wanderers game, so the discussions about the destination for Bournemouth's pre-season summer camp has been going on a while. Usually AFCB will want to play two or three games while on these training camps so it will be ears to the ground to see if any other North American sides are lined up to play the Cherries.

Links with the MLS are certainly growing. If you remember back in January AFCB had Darren Mattocks of the Vancouver White Caps on trial at the Cherries. The flow of players has been very much from Britain to USA, but the trend might start going the other way as the MLS improves and if young players are competitively priced and seek moves to the Premier League and Championship.

I have not heard any dates yet for the training camp, but I'll start putting up dates for friendly fixtures as they are announced. The Philadelphia Union pre-season fixture in the USA has now been confirmed for the 14 July at the PPL Park.

You should also see that we have started a new tab on Cherry Chimes called Premier Talk - West Ham is our first topic of comment.

Later this evening I'll be releasing the Cherry Chimes' June Newsletter which comments on the biggest stories from May on Cherry Chimes. We'll also have an article that is not on the blog - who is best to partner Callum Wilson?

To subscribe to the Newsletter sign up here

Email Format

Media spotlight will only intensify on AFCB

I hope you have all enjoyed seeing not only the team and the staff but also your faces as the fans if the club in the papers and over the Internet in the last few weeks. I have no doubt that it is only a taste of what is to come and the media attention on our beloved Cherries will potentially change how the club is seen by the outside world very quickly. New opinions will be formed and whatever happens in the Premier League the achievements of what AFCB has achieved in 2014-15 should never be devalued or forgotten by us fans. We might even get used to seeing the Cherries grab more headlines in the coming weeks and months.
The Cherries' crest is shining brighter than ever.
Now that the last game of the season has been played with the FA Cup final there will be even more focus on what the clubs are doing to get ready for next season. As one of the new boys in the Premier League most eyes have already been on AFCB, especially as the new signings are coming into the club early. The media attention is already intense and while the club and Eddie Howe are likely to prevent it from being too intrusive, in terms of stopping everyday work getting done, it is clearly great that more people now of AFCB's story and have more of an idea about the amazing journey we have all been on. But there will be more likelihood of some press that we won't like and even being present at the matches against Bolton and Charlton you could see how many more photographers were around and their eagerness to try and get the best photo.

I still believe the bond between the fans and players will remain strong and that the approachability of the club remains open and available to all. The next level of sharing the club's success though may involve giving up more time to chat to the media. I actually believe the club will handle this well as they are one of the most progressive clubs when it comes to marketing its image and getting its message across. It is likely that the club will become more noisy I suppose. The start to the Premier League campaign will be exciting and intriguing, not only for how well the team does but also in how it is perceived by a wider audience. At the moment AFCB are the lovable underdogs but things can change quickly.

Later this evening I'll be releasing the Cherry Chimes' June Newsletter which comments on the biggest stories from May on Cherry Chimes. We'll also have an article that is not on the blog - who is best to partner Callum Wilson?

To subscribe to the Newsletter sign up here

Email Format

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Rubbing shoulders with Aston Villa was a thrill

While AFCB have taken on FA Cup Finalists Aston Villa and been a credit to the town with their performance in the Fourth Round of this year's competition are you thinking like me that the Cherries are not far behind such sides now? The glamour of a final at Wembley is something that every team should strive for and while only a select few can get there each season it is healthy to have aspirations.
AFCB did not quite run rings around Villa in the FA Cup but they came close.
When Aston Villa run out against Arsenal in the Cup Final today I won't feel sad that AFCB are not there, but I'll be watching to see what the strengths and weaknesses are of the two teams. I imagine Eddie Howe and his staff will be doing something similar. The big occasion can tell you many things about players and managers and while we have seen Arsene Wenger and his team in this position many times, it is the first time that we will see Tim Sherwood managing a team there. 

On FA Cup Final day you also want to get near to what the managers, players and fans are feeling. Any indication of what might happen later is always something I look out for. The day does not always go smoothly for those involved even before they get to the pitch. But it must be marvellous to be standing there looking up at the arch and soaking up that atmosphere. 
We'll be back at Villa Park soon when perhaps
the Cherries will be taking on the FA Cup holders. I wish them
good luck against the Gooners today.
AFC Bournemouth will probably get a mention at some point having rubbed shoulders with Aston Villa in this year's competition. Now AFCB will be playing at the same level as Arsenal and Aston Villa the cup final has more attraction for me this year. It's been a good competition with plenty of upsets and some great goals, but for me it would cap it off if Villa as the underdogs could win. It's not that I hold anything against Arsenal - I love the way they play. It would just be a nice touch knowing that AFCB went out this year to the champions.

A reminder from yesterday, one of our AFCB Canadian exiles has asked me to post a video competition hosted by Vancouver White Caps that his three AFCB supporting sons have entered, to try and win their West Kelowna Football club (U10 Boys Vipers) a new indoor training ground - they need as many votes as they can get so please help by voting for Vipers FC here.  You can vote again if you voted yesterday.

Tomorrow we'll be releasing the Cherry Chimes' June Newsletter which comments on the biggest stories from May on Cherry Chimes. We'll also have an article that is not on the blog - who is best to partner Callum Wilson?

To subscribe to the Newsletter sign up here

Email Format

Friday, 29 May 2015

Federici signing should keep Boroc on his toes

Adam Federici looks like he’ll be sadly missed by most Reading fans looking at all their tweets about him. The keeper has been at the Royals for 10 years but the lure of Premier League football was something he could not resist. It is revealing that he chose AFCB to come to as Southampton were also known to be interested in the keeper, so the Cherries may have stolen a second keeper from the Saint’s noses in just as many days.

While Adam will be known for his slip up in the FA Cup Semi-Final this season against Arsenal at Wembley he will be well aware that he will have to be at his very best to dislodge Artur Boruc from the top keepers’ spot. Signing for three years though would indicate that Federici is here for the long term and he has bought into what the club is all about judging from his comments after signing for the Cherries. Again it is good business for the Cherries as Adam was released by Reading and was a free transfer. Reading conceded 69 goals last season, 24 more than AFCB in the league and Adam Federici had 12 clean sheets in the league. 

This does make it difficult to see Lee Camp and Ryan Allsop vying for a keeper’s position at Dean Court but Eddie Howe has said that he wanted Allsop to try and challenge for the No 1 jersey less than a month ago. Now the loan door probably opens up for him and keeping Lee Camp happy will also be difficult, but AFCB has several top keepers battling it out for just one place in the team and one on the bench.

I asked Dan at The Tilehurst End Blog if he'd answer questions about Adam Federici, so here they are:

CC: What are AFC Bournemouth getting with Adam Federici?

THB: You're getting a pretty decent bloke to have around the changing room and a solid goalkeeper at top end Championship/lower Premier League level. His shot stopping has generally been pretty good, while his distribution is amongst the very best I've seen at the Madejski Stadium. His handling is solid but not spectacular, while some fans have never been convinced about his command of an area.

Where he's really been held back is his ability to throw a clanger at the most inopportune moments, as this piece from one of our readers explains.

CC: What do Reading fans like about him?

THB: As mentioned, he's been known to make some big saves at crucial times and off the pitch he's always got on really well with the supporters.

CC: Is there a particular game that you can think of when he was truly magnificent for Reading last season?

THB: Not that immediately spring to mind! He was often doing his very best to keep the scores down, I think even in our thrashing at the Goldsands he was pulling off some fine saves to keep it respectable.

CC: Many thanks to Dan at The Tilehurst End Blog for giving us a bit more of an insight as to Adam Federici. One match back in 2008 which certainly did endear him to the Royals was when he scored against Cardiff in added-on time, which you can read about on this BBC report.

I noted that Baily Cargill had an exciting game last night for the England U20s. It finished 3-3 against Morocco.

Finally, one of our AFCB Canadian exile fans has asked me to post a video competition hosted by Vancouver White Caps that his three AFCB supporting sons have entered, to try and win their West Kelowna Football club (U10 Boys Vipers) a new indoor training ground - they need as many votes as they can get so please help by voting for Vipers FC here. You may also see an AFC Bournemouth goalkeepers shirt if you look closely!

Christian Atsu has singed from Chelsea on a season-long loan to the Cherries!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

New signing Josh King may share workload with Wilson

AFCB have moved very quickly to secure the services of Josh King. I see him as a possible alternative to Callum Wilson as both players have drive and  power to their game and although Josh may not have broken through as much as might have been expected for a former Man Utd young player it is likely that the best years are ahead of him and he has done his hard work in the lower leagues. He's another international player and at 23 he should win a lot more caps for Norway.

Last season I didn't feel that the Cherries had much back up if Callum had been injured and the long season did start to tell on Callum's body towards the end. The injury history of King does not look great but with AFCB's physio team he can hopefully play more games than he did for Blackburn Rovers. Matt Ritchie began the 2013-14 season with hamstring problems and AFCB got him right in a few months and now he has had a brilliant last 12 months, so I don't think Josh King could be at a better club if he is prone to such problems.

When I have seen Josh play I have been impressed with his aggression and pace and he'll be a handful for defenders. It appears that Eddie Howe certainly will go attacking teams in the Premier League with players that are quick and have strength in their game. If Christian Atsu is also added to the line up then I would be wondering which of AFCB's players would be the quickest?

Josh's FA Cup hat-trick against Stoke this year.

It does look like AFCB are going to be very careful with their spending. Perhaps this still gives them the opportunity to bring in a couple more players who do come with big price tags. If the club can stay up without over spending then it will help the long term future of the club.  

Congratulations to Harry Arter as well on being voted the PFA Fans' player Award for the Championship in 2014-15. You'll also find All Departments has released Cherry Culture Part 4: Kits.

Chelsea's Atsu expected to sign on loan to the Cherries

Christian Atsu is a former Porto player who joined Chelsea In 2013 for £3.5 million but has been out on loan at Vitesse Arnham and then Everton last season. While he did not get many games for the Toffees he is a Ghanian who has now played in the Premier League as well as the World Cup. Compared to the experience of AFCB’s current players Atsu has more experience than many of top flight football and he should be a player who can compete for a place hopefully not only on the bench but even for a starting position.

We are still waiting to see if he will be signed but if it happens today this will surely put pressure on the position of Junior Stanislas and perhaps Ryan Fraser if Atsu can play on either wing. He has played as an attacking midfielder as well through the centre. At Everton he was mainly used as a sub and featured in their Europa League matches replacing Romelo Lukaku in one game up front. Looking at his profile, Christian Atsu really needs a run of games to see what he can really do. Chelsea clearly saw potential in the player if they offered him a five year contract, but he has something to prove now.

Eddie Howe has not brought in many loan signings during his tenure and how this potential move has come about is not clear yet, but we should hear more in the next few days. It is likely that AFCB watched Atsu during the Africa Cup of Nations and have been tracking him for a while. With Matt Ritchie now heavily involved in the Scottish squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers it is a reasonable thought to believe that Atsu would be a signing that offers good cover for Matt if he does miss a few games through injury.

Atsu had was at Dean Court yesterday and if he does sign he would be the third signing of the summer (make that the fourth now after Josh King signed today) and yet another international player that Eddie Howe has added to his squad this May after Adam Federici signed yesterday, for three-years, and Artur Boruc signed, for a year, earlier in the week. 

Christian's deal  though has probably taken a lot of people by surprise at its suddenness and by the fact that Christian Atsu is not a name that many fans will have heard of south of Merseyside. He could also be joined by Josh King who is out of contract in the summer.  

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Cherries still targeting young British-based players

With the links that AFCB have through Sean O'Driscoll at the FA with the U19s it is perhaps no surprise that Bournemouth are very interested in bringing more young English Internationals to the club. The thought of bringing in players like Luke Garbutt is refreshing and while Dwight Gayle has not yet been capped, he is another Premier League player who has many years to play, being just 25, and AFCB are not just looking at the usual players that tend to get a move at the end of a Premier League season having failed with their clubs and looking to stay in the top flight. 

I am surprised that Crystal Palace might listen to offers for Gayle but if they have other targets then the money would allow Palace to make a move for someone else. Some 12 goals in 48 appearances is not that bad in the Premier League and a price of £6m will probably tempt a few clubs.
Baily may yet get some more young England internationals joining him at AFCB.
The pace of the transfers should start to pick up now that the season has finished apart from the FA Cup. There is pressure to get players in so that they can be involved in the pre-season training camps and the competition for players has just increased with Norwich City now getting promoted.

We have also seen that Bournemouth are allegedly chasing Kieran Trippier (24) at Burnley and are said to be up against Spurs for his signature. Trippier has also played for the U21s and would be another signing that is coming into his best years. The pull of Spurs may be greater than a reunion with Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall, but we will see.

The pleasing aspect is that AFCB is being linked with players that have something to prove and are not past their sell by date. If a strong young squad can be built at Bournemouth then the potential to grow as a club will really take hold quickly.

This summer will see a lot of English young players involved in the U20s and U21s both involved in tournaments and the teams are said to have some of the best chances they have had in a long time to do well. That will include our own Baily Cargill playing for the U20s in Toulon and I'll be hoping that he impresses.

On Tuesday it was confirmed, however, that AFCB had signed Polish keeper Artur Boruc and there was talk of a second keeper, Australian Federici from Reading FC is also about to sign for the Cherries. SkySports has also linked 23-year-old Ghanaian winger Christian Atsu with a season long loan to AFCB from Chelsea. So 'British-based' players is perhaps more the way AFCB will build its squad for the Premier League.

Good luck to Shaun MacDonald who hopes to put a Welsh shirt on during the European qualifier with Belgium in 12th June.

Eddie Howe can take on the best now

AFCB fans have been saying for years that Eddie Howe is one of the best young English managers in the country and soon I think even more people will be simply saying he is the best English manager in the country. Now Eddie has been named League Managers' Association Manager of the Year he also won Championship manager of the year. Eddie is only the second manager who was outside the top division to win the award since 1992 and now the Premier League beckons.
Can Eddie Howe keep the momentum going?
The Premier League gives him the opportunity to go hear-to-head against the big names in management that have come to dominate the game. While the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Man City have all gone with foreign managers it is pleasing that Bournemouth have had a hand in creating some great English managers and Eddie Howe is the next in line.

There was a time when Harry Redknapp was the only Bournemouth manager to get a mention TV. More recently it has been Tony Pulis that has been the saviour for Premier League clubs facing the trap door. Now we will see how good Eddie Howe is at leading a side in the top tier and I look forward to the day when AFCB go to the Hawthorns to take on base cap supremo Tony Pulis and his team. I back Eddie Howe and the Cherries to come out on top and looking at the Premier League as it stands he might not have to beat so many teams to be the top English manager at the end of the season. Gary Monk and Swansea are at the head of the queue at present, but it is a tad disappointing that it is hard for English coaches to get to this level in the game.

When you look at the managerial records of Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal you have to say this is a real jump up in class. Eddie will not have the depth of experience of many of these managers but then again very few of them have really known what it is like to have your back against the wall, with transfer embargoes, docked points and knowing that you are 90 minutes away from going out of the football league. Eddie will draw on his experiences and will need to emulate something similar to his greatest managerial wins that he has had in cup competitions over a 38 game season if AFCB are to beat the odds.

I imagine that Eddie's notes over the summer will be running to several volumes. He'll need to asses every Premier League team with great precision and find more ways of making his own team harder to beat over the summer. Somehow, I reckon Eddie Howe will be like a kid in a toy shop.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Artur Boruc is Cherries first Premier League signing

It had been hoed that Artur Boruc would sign a permanent contract for AFCB, but nothing is ever certain until pen is put to paper. On hearing the news this morning that Artur was to be the first signing for AFCB in the Premier League I was extremely pleased. Artur has shown his quality since being with Bournemouth on loan and while he quietly goes about his business his like for being with the Cherries did surface towards the end of last season when he was asked very directly on the Victory Parade bus if he would like to stay.

Artur Boruc and Matt Ritchie on the pitch at Dean Court.
As a shot stopper and catcher of the ball I don't think there are many better goalkeepers that Eddie Howe could bring in. As long as Artur works on his distribution I am sure he will fit in extremely well and will really help the team with his experience of going to Premier League grounds. The length of contract is just one year with an option for a further 12 months, which is quite short compared to most of the other Bournemouth players. That may well be to protect the club and Artur in case they are unable to keep their Premier League status next season. Importantly, Artur was also released by Southampton last week and so will ahve signed as a free agent.

Considering that Artur played most of the games last season for AFCB (39 in all) it will be great to have that consistency of keeping Artur behind the back four.  While Artur has come from near rivals Southampton there has been much respect and admiration for what he has helped the Cherries achieve last season and I expect that he will be given a very warm reception when he next runs out for AFCB in pre-season. Artur's signing already gives me confidence that AFCB can get clean sheets in the Premier League.

Breaking News - two keepers come along at once: Get Reading is reporting that AFCB have signed 30-year-old Aussie keeper Adam Federici of Reading FC on a three year contract subject to a medical.

Could Albanian left back be Harte's replacement?

Eddie Howe is going to have to find another left back to fit into the squad now that Ian Harte has been released. There are many aspiring British left backs that Bournemouth could seek out now that they have money to spend in the Premier League. Upcoming Championship stars include Tyrone Mings at Ipswich, Jake Bidwell at Brentford and Declan John at Cardiff, but what of Bournemouth's scouting overseas? 
The search to replace Ian Harte is on.
Eddie Howe was in Italy last week at Empoli FC and I was interested to see that on their books is a young 21-year-old called Elseid Hysaj who has been talked about as one of the best young players in Italy at the moment. He has now made more than 100 caps for the Serie A side and has amassed 11 caps for Albania. Priced at around £3m, he would be a valuable addition to the Cherries who need to push Charlie Daniels in the left back position.

The Empoli FC full back is cool under pressure when going forward and scores some great goals himself as you can see in this YouTube clip where he scores the second goal. A plus point for Elseid is that he can play at both right and left back and he is well known for his short passing which fits into AFCB's style of play. His contract at Empoli is said to run out in 2016.

Okay, Albanian Serie A players might be just a bit optimistic but at least the club has more ability to look further than just the home leagues now. 
Eddie Howe has long stated that he wants to buy British but the cost of some of the players he may want could force him to look abroad, and while language could be a problem for many foreign players coming to the club, there is no doubt that AFCB are looking for quality players in the top flight. Current favourite to come in at left back is probably Everton's Luke Garbutt but AFCB face competition from Swansea and Watford.

How much the club spends though is also being kept very quiet and while we saw AFCB make a £5 million pound bid last January for Demari Gray, anything over £3 million would be a record signing for the Cherries in the summer. There may still be some bargains about though. The Premier League release list comes out soon. Last season AFCB brought in Dan Gosling and Junior Stanislas on frees - watch this space! 

The Championship Run-In sees Norwich book their place in the Premier League.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Pugh deserves a good new contract

I was looking back at the player contracts and the length of deals that most of the current squad have which are fairly lengthy, but Marc Pugh is one player who may want to have talks with the club again early in the new season if not before. Marc signed a three-and-a-half year contract back in November 2012 and since then the club has won two promotions which is not going to look too shabby on his CV. Marc was 25 when he last signed for the club and since then he has matured into a left winger that not only creates but scores important goals, and he has had to be at his best with young players like Ryan Fraser pushing him for a starting place.

AFCB - give Pugh a top new deal.
Pugh has risen through the leagues with AFCB and that loyalty should be repaid as he could have moved in the past when the side did break up after defeat in the 2011 League One play-offs against Huddersfield under Lee Bradbury. But Marc stuck it out and he has found a new level of performance in the last 12 months that have made him seem like Mr Reliable, and it is now a surprise if his name is not one of the first down on the team sheet. He has been recognised for his fantastic community work as well and I don't think I'm alone in believing that the club is very fortunate to have such a player like Pugh in its ranks. 

When he does sit down to put pen to paper he will have been one of the longest servants to the club in recent years. In a season when we have seen the likes of Steven Gerrard leave Liverpool it is good to see that AFCB have a few players that have been at the club for more than just three or our years. Contract renewals are becoming a habit, but that has been one of the ways in which Eddie Howe has built success by showing players that they can improve under him if they stay at the club. I'll be one fans who will be delighted to hear the day when Pugh runs out in front of the home crowd in the Premier League as he is one of those players who made it possible for the whole team and supporters alike.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Blackburn's Josh King - a risky signing for the Cherries?

Earlier today, Sky Sports was first to break the news that Josh King was thought to be a target for AFCB having not renewed his contract with Blackburn Rovers. The left-sided winger only made 19 appearances for rovers last season and 11 of those were from the bench. With a total of four goals for the season I suppose that you could say it could have gone better for him last season and AFCB were said to be interested in him last January.

King is an international player for Norway and having come through the Man Utd academy he certainly has pedigree but the presence of Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede have limited his chance of making a bigger impression at Ewood Park. I do remember him scoring a stunning hat-trick in the FA Cup against Stoke City in February when he tore through the middle of the Stoke defence with great speed and power to take Rovers to the quarter finals.

How much of a risk though would it be for the Cherries to bring King into a 25-man Premier League squad? Frankly, I believe Eddie Howe has to take some risks and if King comes on a free transfer, financially it will be a good deal for the Cherries. Ensuring that King is over his injury problems will be key. In January he suffered a hamstring injury, he also missed the league match at Dean Court for the same reason and March he missed the sixth round tie with Liverpool with another hamstring problem. He did get back into the side as a sub for the Huddersfield game in April and Blackburn's last game of the season against Ipswich. While we know he can score against Premier League teams, Howe will need to know if he can give him enough minutes on the pitch.

A change in scenery for the 23-year-old could help his injury problems and get his career back on track. There has to be a reason why he breaks down so often and a change in training methods could help him to overcome some of his problems, but it would be a risk if the Cherries take him on. AFCB would need game time out of King and the medical could well be the most difficult thing in getting him to Dean Court. If King does come to Bournemouth though it would probably kill off any hopes of Demarai Gray coming to the club, but that would be a saving of £5+ million. 

Surman has delivered Premier performances all season

There was no Harry Arter or Matt Ritchie or Callum Wilson picking up the players' player of the year award for AFCB this season. Instead it was the quiet and unassuming Andrew Surman who may have only scored a couple of goals in AFCB's historic 2014-15 promotion season, but who has more than kept his place in the starting 11 with 41 appearances. He is ever present in the side and his contribution has not been undervalued by his team mates that see him as the ball retainer and central rock on which the side has been able to turn defence into attack so quickly.

At 28, Surman (Surs - as he is called by the players) will be one of the key players for the club in the Premier League. His experience will be required as well as his vision at unlocking even tougher defences than in the Championship. The main question that I'd like to ask him though is can he do even more and take his game yet another step forward? As much as Andrew is seen as a dependable player it would be great to see him really pull those Premier League teams apart.

Andrew Surman is named the players' player of the year at AFCB.

What is clear is that AFCB play with a lot of partnerships in the team and Surman and Harry Arter are probably the most important pairing. No one gives the ball away less than Surman and that is going to be a vital requirement in the Premier League. 

Andrew has already said that he will be watching Norwich tomorrow on whether they can reach the Premier League. They have a tough battle on their hands with Middlesbrough. I take a quick look at that game and the possible consequences for the team that might miss out over at The Championship Run-In.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Is this the start of more silverware for the Cherries?

They say success breeds success and AFCB have been on a bit of a roll for the last seven years. Much of that good fortune has been hard earned and it has perhaps not been so much as a fluke as some of us would like to think. Planning success is what everyone of the 92 football league and even the non-league clubs set out to do every year and yet only a few succeed in achieving their ambitions. Now that AFCB has a winning mentality, can it really take them on to further glories?
There was some wild celebrating at the end of last season.
If we look at the recent cup achievements of the side then reaching the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup and the fourth round of the FA Cup last season are something to build on. The situation will be different in the cups now that AFCB have become a Premier league scalp for the football league's 72, but with a few additions to the squad and with Eddie Howe looking to make his way up the manager's distinction tables, there is every reason to believe that the Cherries could get a lot closer to Wembley in the years to come.

While the club is not in Europe and will have to find its feet in the Premier League, if the team can get a good start it can build confidence and will have the advantage of not having to play as many games as teams in the Championship and those at the top of the Premier League that are playing in the Europa and Champions League. So in the club's current position it could be said that this could well be the best season for the Cherries coming up to add to its recent silverware. 

Playing against the likes of Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea will be a massive step up but when the players can get some success against such teams there will be a growing feeling among them that they can go and achieve more. Premier League survival is obviously the main task, but while AFCB are in this company there are many benefits to be had and reaching the latter stages of the cup competitions is one of those targets that I am sure Eddie Howe will be looking at in 2015-16 if things are going well.

Friday, 22 May 2015

O'Kane is perfect for Premier League

Eunan O'Kane has not had the biggest of seasons and he'll know very well that he has had some bad luck in 2014-15 even if the team has done exceptionally well. I advise you now though to think what this young Irishman might do in the Premier League if he gets his chance. Eunan was a big star in his first Championship season and he was magnificent at times playing in front of the back four and it is that very position that could be crucial against the high pressing top six teams in the Premier League that AFCB will be looking to take on not that long in the future.

Eunan will know that he has to battle harder for a place next season.
AFCB will not find it as easy to keep possession for quite as long in games next season, especially against some of the very best teams in the Premier League. While Eddie Howe will look to keep on the front foot and take games to the opposition there will be times when the defence needs more protection than it had in the Championship. Eunan won't be the only player after that position though and Dan Gosling will be another that surely will want to have a bigger season than he personally had at the club in 2014-15.

Defence will be the area where AFCB have to make the biggest improvement. Pretty much every team that the Cherries play will have internationals in every position and so there will be no hiding places. It has been hard to see past Andrew Surman and Harry Arter in the last nine months but a five-man midfield may just be the way Howe decides to go for a few more games in the Premier League and there will be intense competition for the extra place in the middle with Shaun MacDonald also hoping to play more games.
Eunan has a habit of playing well against the
big teams as he scored against Wigan in the FA Cup a
couple of seasons ago and against WBA in the
Capital One Cup last season.
What hindered Eunan last season was an injury against Watford in a home match. While we did see him warm up in several games towards the end of the season he never really got a spell in the team during the promotion run and if he does get into the team early next season I can see him having a big season.

The game he'll be looking forward to the most I expect is when AFCB play away to Everton at Goodison Park. He will have shown that he was good enough to have stayed at Everton having now matured into a Premier League player and I really hope he does play in that fixture and gives former Wigan boss Roberto Martinez yet another headache.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

What next for Tommy Elphick?

There has been one face that AFCB fans have seen in the past couple of weeks more than most. Tommy Elphick has rightly been in huge demand for appearances since he has lifted the Sky Bet Championship Trophy at Charlton. His pre-match rituals might have hidden a bit of the serious side of the captain's manner, but there should be no doubt that Tommy has set his sights on doing a lot more than just seeing AFCB being a part of the Premier League. He wants to target new goals and it looks like he'll take us supporters with him all the way.
Tommy Elphick at the Amex this season.
Tommy will no longer have to wonder what might have happened if he had stayed at Brighton. He has more than earned his place in the Cherries' history books now and his partnership with Steve Cook has become a central part of the team's success. Out of all the players when the Cherries had beaten Bolton in that dramatic and tense penultimate league match, it was Tommy who came out first for the player's walkabout, punching the air in delight and jumping high into the air so that everyone could see him with a massive grin. If his superstitions had helped him personally during the 90 minutes, those scenes of him jumping into the air were sheer ecstasy at what had been achieved, he was more than willing to let everyone into his thoughts and to view his delight at being a winner.

That winning mentality shows itself in all his interviews and even more so in the most recent ones when he has been explaining that AFCB are Champions and will attack the Premier League. It is the players that I believe are now leading the way. They have taken on board where they will be playing next season very quickly and under Tommy they stand every chance of doing well as they have already succeeded together. The next step is to start seeing just how good they can be as players. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Cherries' away game point system seeks fairness

I imagine that many of you that go to away games regularly have noted that AFCB have mentioned that they are hoping to bring in a new points system for the away matches, perhaps even for next season. How this will work exactly has not been stated yet, but the aim is certainly to give loyal away fans some kind of reward for their continued support as games against big teams will be in strong demand. Whether the club can also do something online with being able to receive away tickets for cup games or high demand games would also be helpful if it could avoid the kind of queues that fans had to endure to get hold of tickets for the Charlton game at the end of last season.
The messag will soon be - build up your points to see more away games.
The main change that I can see is that priority service for season ticket holders is no longer going to be the key to getting hands on away tickets at some point in the future. How soon this may happen is not yet detailed. It looks like the data the club will use may go back a couple of years to see how often fans book for away games. I only hope that a point system would also mean less need for phone calls as well, but I imagine it would take some time to get a service going online with a new points system.

The pleasing thing is in the last few years we have seen the away support growing. It was fabulous to be among some 6000 fans at Aston Villa and 4000 at Reading and another 4500 at Charlton last season. The amount of fans going to the large stadiums at Premier League games is only as much as 3000 or 10 per cent of the capacity insmaller grounds (corrected from earlier). Cherry picking the best away games to see though may be more difficult in future if you have not been to many away games.

This is what the club has said so far when responding to social media questions about an away points system:

What's the plan with away tickets? Is it season ticket holder priority as normal or will there be a points system scheme?
The club is working towards a point system which recognises supporters’ attendance to replace season ticket holder priority for away games. More details will be announced in due course.

How long do you hold records for on purchase history? Will those that have been to games for the last 10 years get priority?
While the database is 12 years old, more recent history will be used to determine criteria going forward.

Life at the top could be slightly Italian for the Cherries

I'd like to think that not much will change for the players and the coaching that Eddie Howe gives the team. Already though Eddie is looking to pick up new ideas and has been mixing with Maurizio Sarri with Empoli in Italy, which can't hurt and he might even be watching some players while he is out there. Empoli take on the giants of Juventas, Inter Milan and Napoli every week in Seire A so there could be very good advice at hand to know how AFCB can get points against the likes of Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea. They were only promoted to Serie A last season having been runners up in Serie B, but play entertaining football. I can't help but believe that pooling knowledge from top European coaches is something that more managers should do and any advantage that AFCB can take into the new season is going to be worth millions if the team can stay up.
AFCB will be looking to raise standards higher in the Premier League.
The direction of the play is one thing and it may be that taking on better teams does have major consequences for AFCB. If there is one aspect of the game that stands out for me in the Premier League compared to the Championship it is the quality of strikes from free kicks and the amount of goals from corners. The set-piece is something that the Cherries are going to have to get better at defending against and some Italian methods in that respect may well be what Eddie Howe is currently looking at. Hopefully, we'll hear very soon about whether Artur Boruc is to be the first line of defence in the team for next season. 

Life in the Premier League is no longer a distant dream, it is real and it is here. The job just got much harder for everyone at AFCB. Being prepared is what is now the priority and as well as the addition of some new players (the latest rumours centre on Kieran Trippier of Burnley and Everton youngster Luke Garbutt), the team has to be comfortable in knowing what it faces in the next few months. When the players come back to train they need to be on it from the moment they start training and attention to details is going to be vitally important. I know that AFCB could not have more capable people than Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall to lead the team in this exercise and while the Premier League may have arrived sooner than many of us expected everyone has to adapt to it fast now.

As fans we can enjoy the ride and pause to take it all in. It must be like a whirlwind for those on the inside at the club. The season ticket sales and the fixtures are just the start of it. New shirts, new advertisers and media pressures are going to stretch everyone, but the club is already showing how it wants to remain helpful and friendly to fans that have questions and only want the best for the club. There are, for example, some great questions from fans about season tickets and answers from from the club up on the official AFC Bournemouth website.

I do expect to see an even more professional AFCB though. The expectations on everyone to raise their game is higher and with the world looking on I just know that they will all make us very proud in the Premier League. UTCIAD!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Can't wait to get your hands on those AFCB tickets?

Well the season ticket prices have been announced on the Official AFCB club site today. I am not going to comment on the prices as every body's financial situation is different and while some will say they are having to pay too much some will say it is cheaper than I thought it would be. The club will try and be as fair as it can and yet they are a business and have to seek a return that they feel is value for money for the product which is now the best football that AFCB fans will have potentially seen at Dean Court.

This may be a one-off season or it could be just the start of something special. The club will be transformed no matter what even if there are no more bricks to increase the capacity. Every match will be like a cup final for the Cherries and the fans that are lucky enough to have a season ticket or get the opportunity to go to a few games during the season. 
It could be a bit busy at Dean Court next season and
 there will be a great buzz around the ground.
The club also says there is a cap of 7000 season tickets so there should be tickets to buy before each home game this upcoming season. While some will dismay that they cannot get to see the team at home often enough, why not keep saving so that you can afford a treat to some on the away games? Yes, season ticket holders will have first dabs on the away game tickets but the amount of tickets available to the club should be higher than was available in the Championship and there will be games when AFCB's allocation is not all taken up in 2015-16 at away games. There is also the cup games as well to consider.  

Getting inside Dean Court though will be a privilege next season and I hope that as many fans as possible get that opportunity.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Dean Court's capacity to remain 11,700 for 2015-16

It did not take Neil Blake, AFCB's chief executive, that long to reach the conclusion that Dean Court could not be expanded in time to make the start of the 2015-16 season. While it would have been satisfying for everyone to have a bigger ground with more people able to see the games, making a bigger temporary stand would I suspect only have increased capacity for away fans and any improvements would have been taken with as a short term fix rather than a long term view of what can be achieved with the available space.
Dean Court is not the biggest of stadiums but it's
home and AFCB will make do with what it has.
The knowledge that the South stand is located on former waste ground seems to have been the final factor that just made it too difficult to sort out quickly, as further tests are needed for a larger permanent structure at that end of the ground. Neil Blake refers to this as, "one of the major stumbling blocks in our proposed plans."

The question now is whether the ground will be able to host larger crowds in 2016-17? Mr Blake said that: "If we are able to retain our place in the Premier League, stadium capacity will be a priority for the following season." 

Even that though would need testing to be done at some stage and plans will have to be advanced to create a stadium that would pass building regulations and safety standards if the club is to build during next summer when the time period to build I imagine would be from the end of May to the start of August. It would probably mean that any pre-season games next season would have to be held away from Dean Court, while this summer the ground may also be out of use with so many revisions needing to take place such as the underground heating, new pitch and expansion of the media section with hard wiring and new floodlights.

It's a lot to take on and as Jeff Mostyn indicated earlier in the month, this promotion allows the club to invest in the team and that will be a priority to try and retain Premier League status. It does mean that away fans will probably be restricted to around 1500-2000 fans while it will be important for AFCB fans who don't already have season tickets if there will be a number of seats available to new season ticket holders. The news on season tickets is said to be announced on 19 May 2015.

Callum Wilson expected to torment rather than join London clubs

While Chelsea and now Arsenal have been eyeing up the much admired Callum Wilson at AFC Bournemouth, the Cherries are likely to head off any interest very quickly in their much prized no 13 this summer as they plan a take down of the Premier League's elite. Having lost Lewis Grabban less than 12 months ago, it is Eddie Howe's aim to build his squad around Callum Wilson in the top flight, even if Arsenal and Chelsea wanted to pay well over the odds for Wilson's services. The tight knit group of young players that the Cherries now have give Wilson every reason for believing he is best served at this moment by staying on the south coast.
Callum Wilson and Dan Gosling at The Valley this season.
AFCB are a club on the up and that has more than been recognised by the leading Premier League sides. In fact they are already wondering  what the Cherries might achieve having ripped their way through the lower leagues in the past few years and with Wilson leading the line the Cherries could be another team seeking a top half finish in 2015-16. It is the pace of the Coventry-born striker that has alerted the scouts of Arsenal, Spurs, Southampton, Swansea, West Ham and Aston Villa, along with the goal haul of 23 goals in a gruelling Championship campaign that saw the Cherries crowned as Champions. But the top team's scouting networks are much larger than the sights of the Championship where they know newly promoted clubs will slap huge price-tags on their best players - Wilson is no exception.

The worry for some of those clubs keen to entice AFCB's leading striker to their set-up is that any team that one of their rivals might beat them to it. Wilson is still getting better and he has already pulled defences apart in the Championship in his first season at that level. If he can give teams a torrid time in the Premier League he will then be more likely to be a target for larger budget clubs. He could be more than ready to upset defences in the top division, and with a strong performance in the UEFA European Championship Finals for England this summer (17-30 June) he could soon rival Harry Kane for the headline writers. Gareth Southgate should name his England U21 squad before the end of May and Wilson will be heavily watched if he gets the chance to play in the Czech Republic.
Callum get Junior Stanislas to take his picture
 with the AFCB fans behind him at Charlton.
Wilson will also want to play games in the Premier League and not sit on the bench as a squad player and that is why I think he has everything to gain by staying at AFCB this summer.
Danny Ings is the last striker from AFCB to have taken to the Premier league with great success, but it has taken him a year to make his name in the top tier. It appears that Callum Wilson will do so as well, but I'll expect it to be in the red and black of AFC Bournemouth that he will have to prove himself first.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Rickie Lambert could be coming back south

I have been used to seeing Rickie Lambert banging on the goals for Southampton and yet since the summer he has rarely started a game for his boyhood favourites Liverpool FC. I can see the interest for Rickie to choose a move to AFCB, as linked by the Bournemouth Echo. It would be a return to the south coast an a chance to play more than a handful of games if he can prove more productive than Yann Kermorgant in a red and black shirt.

Rickie fits the criteria that Eddie Howe is said to be looking for as an English player with Premier League experience, but at 33 does Eddie want another ageing striker? What I do like about Lambert is his aerial skill which is not a strong point for the Cherries. He also keeps the ball well around the opponent's box and has a strong strike on him. As an English international he might not come cheap, but a lack of football in the last year may see Liverpool off load him for a shadow of the £4 million fee, plus add-ons that the Merseysiders signed off to the Saints for his services only a year ago.

Eddie looks very much for players that can hold the ball up well and can integrate play in the last third and Lambert fits that category. Over his five year period from 2009-14 with the Saints Lambert rattled in some 106 goals in 207 appearances. I imagine he would receive some stick from Saints fans if he does indeed sign from the Cherries, but that would make the two fixtures against Southampton next season just a little more sweeter. 

The Daily Mirror has also been writing that Lambert is a definite target for the Cherries and I see this rumour as having more legs to it than some of the other names we have already heard of as targets for the Cherries this summer. If the forward could be picked up for no more than £3 million he would be a signing that could just be a perfect match for Callum Wilson and good cover for Yann Kermorgant. 

How would you feel about a former Saint joining the Cherries? For me, if he can do a job at keeping the Cherries up, he would be worth every penny. 

Going to big stadiums is nothing new for the Cherries

This season the Cherries have visited Aston Villa's ground and have played at big venues as they did last season such as the Riverside and the City ground as well as Molineux, the Ipro, Portman Road and Carrow Road. What is noticeable though is that these were not grounds where the Cherries came away with many victories though apart from at Wolves and it will be necessary to get the players doing even better at large stadiums next season because they are going to see a lot of them.

While the Championship does have some big stadia what they don't always have is the atmosphere of fully packed ground and that will be a difference in the Premier League at some grounds where you have waiting lists for season tickets at places like Anfield, the Emirates and Old Trafford. These big stadiums will not be half empty and it will be like cup final matches for the Cherries in some respects or at least for the fans on visiting some of these famous grounds.
The big grounds have to be happy hunting grounds for the Cherries next season.
The away support for AFCB has been mentioned a lot this season and while it is now not untypical for the team to have a following of 4000-6000 fans on the road for big matches that kind of support will be very necessary when taking on the best in the Premier League. It might be slightly easier for AFCB to attract some bigger pre-match friendlies this summer, and I hope if they can they play some of those games at big stadiums away from home just to get more experience of being in the company with the best. At Dean Court it is going to be more of a culture shock for some of the big teams, and if the club decides not to develop then the away fans will not have such significantly big crowds at Dean Court, and that could be important in keeping AFCB not only up but inflicting plenty of damage on teams that they are perhaps not expected to beat next season.

The Championship Run-In features an update on the Norwich v Ipswich play-off semi-final.