AFCB: back where we belong?

Five years ago AFC Bournemouth were promoted to the Premier League and to this day I still struggle to believe it ever happened. I was born in Bournemouth and grew up there, only leaving at 25 years of age and so the town and the football team are important to me. For a few years I had a season ticket and enjoyed every moment of our struggles in the lower divisions, and even a brief spell in the Championship which seemed a huge achievement at the time.

For those of you who are abroad this is not the football where they wear helmets and take a break every 5 minutes because they are tired, this is what you would call soccer, only played at a more skilful and intense level. I am joking of course.

The progress AFCB have made under Eddie Howe has been extraordinary and is to this day one of those made for film moments that happen rarely. The first part of the story is perfectly captured in the video below.

The next few years are covered in the below video which is much shorter.

To stay in the premier league for five years has been an amazing achievement and almost nobody would have predicted us staying for two years let alone longer.

But here we are today a few hours before the final matches of the season and Bournemouth are quoted as having a 95% chance of being relegated back to the Championship. We have to win our match, against a better opponent, and need two other teams to lose their matches for us to stay up which seems highly improbable. The fact it is not in our hands is the big problem and so I am pretty certain at this time we are done.

It has been a strange five years and despite us staying up year after year there has been a sense of repetition. Every February my son and I would discuss if we will stay up or not and every year we manage to secure our position at various points in the season. We managed to finish in 10th place once, which was a bit fortunate, but the sense that we are one of ten or so teams that have to battle for everything has been constant.

The bigger clubs have the league tied up (apart from that glorious Leicester season of course) and the snobbery that comes from many fans of the big clubs is palpable if you ever dare to mention your team in the same breath. AFCB beat most of the big teams over the past five years and some more than once which proved we had the desire, but ultimately consistency and genuine quality throughout have finally cost us.

In preparation for this season, and after seeing an obvious decline, I purchased the Panini Sticker album (I haven’t done that since I was a kid) just in case we fell out of the division and never returned. For the rest of my life it is quite possible that AFCB will never be a premier league team again and so a stupid amount of money has been spent on stickers. I will complete the set one way or another and go back to supporting a lower league team.

If we can come back up next year (under Eddie?) it could all start again, but for now I will on the whole look back fondly on what has been an amazing five years. We are likely to lose our best players to Premier League teams and have to start all over again which is the real kicker. Strangely, the notion that we are being relegated has on the one hand not mattered at all. In 2020 we have many more important things to worry about than football, but in the matches when we won recently with no supporters and a lack of atmosphere because of COVID I experienced moments of happiness that have otherwise been absent this year. Brief moments, but happy nonetheless so many football is more important than I thought.

I am writing this at lunchtime on Sunday and am expecting the worst later today and will add no more unless a miracle happens. Thanks for the five years boys, it’s been a blast!

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