AFC Bournemouth are currently second in the Sky Bet Championship with only a home game against Bolton and a trip to Charlton left on the calendar. The Cherries find themselves on the verge of automatic promotion to the Premier League, only a few years after almost being forced to fold.
Their journey to the Championship hasn’t been smooth as they’ve struggled financially. In February 2008, Bournemouth, then in League One, suffered a ten-point deduction as the club were forced into administration with debts of about £4 million. They could not survive the drop as they found themselves in League Two. Ahead of their season in the fourth-tier of English Football, their continuing problems in administration looked to threaten their participation in the Football League as had not yet shown that they would be able to produce a full team for the whole season. What’s more, the administration problems refused to go away. Bournemouth were cleared to compete, but with a 17-point penalty for not conforming to the Football League rules.
The off-field struggles had an effect on the squad and manager Kevin Bond was relieved of his duties after picking up just two points from the first four games. Bond was replaced by former player Jimmy Quinn, who only lasted 121 days at the helm after a run of poor results. Eddie Howe took charge as caretaker boss following Quinn’s dismissal with the club ten points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Despite Howe’s first two games in charge of Bournemouth ending in defeats, he was appointed permanently as the manager of the club on January 19, 2009. He masterminded Bournemouth’s ‘Great Escape;’ a Steven Fletcher strike in their final home game of the season against Grimsby Town ensured the Cherries maintained their Football League status. Eddie Howe, 31 at the time, was the youngest manager in the Football League and he endeared himself to the Bournemouth faithful by keeping them up despite the 17-point deficit. They ended the season on a high, recording their best away victory in 30 years as they thrashed Morecambe 4-0.
In the close season, a consortium including Adam Murray, who attempted to buy 50% of the club’s shares from former chairman Paul Baker at the end of 2008, finally took over Bournemouth. The Cherries faithful were optimistic for the upcoming season as Howe prepared for his first full season. Bournemouth finished second and secured promotion from League Two with two games to spare.
They impressed in League One, and looked not too far away from promotion. However, they lost their manager to Burnley in January 2011. Howe took charge of his 100th and final Bournemouth match on 14 January 2011 in a 2-1 loss away to Colchester United.
Another former player, Lee Bradbury, succeeded the successful Howe and led the team to the League One play-offs. The Cherries lost to Huddersfield Town in the two-legged play-off semi-final on penalties following a 3-3 draw. In the 2011-12 season Bradbury’s first full season, Bournemouth failed to mount another promotion challenge and Bradbury was replaced by Paul Groves in the latter part of the campaign. Bournemouth finished eleventh that season.
Paul Groves was not in charge for long as he was sacked following a poor start to the 2012-13 season. Eddie Howe returned to the club in October 2012 and steered the team from their relegation battle and earned promotion to the second-tier of English Football for the first time since 1990. Bournemouth impressed in their first season and finished tenth – their highest position in the Football League.
Eddie Howe and his team haven’t looked back since. They are currently the highest-scoring team in the league. The Cherries were quarter-finalists in this year’s League Cup; their run was halted by Liverpool as they lost 3-1 to Brendan Rodgers’ side. They have lost only eight games – the fewest of anyone in the Championship. They are unbeaten in their last eleven games, their last defeat coming against Nottingham Forest in February.
Callum Wilson has been their most clinical striker, finding the back of the net twenty times in his 43 appearances. Yann Kermorgant and Brett Pitman have contributed massively in the goal-scoring department as well, with both men scoring fifteen and thirteen goals respectively.
Eddie Howe seems to know how to get this club winning and promotion to the top flight would make him one of the greatest managers in the club’s history. However, the fans know the race is not over; both Norwich and Middlesborough are very much in with a chance of automatic promotion.