Unpopular opinion coming up…
Bournemouth are my kind of football club.
A young English manager arrives at a club with a history of mediocrity. With the help of a wealthy owner, he takes them to the top flight where he plays entertaining attacking football and improves players who were with him in the lower divisions. He establishes his club in the top flight despite a small stadium with no real potential to expand.
When Graham Taylor did this for Watford from 1977 to 1987, it was the best thing ever. No Watford fan would deny that.
So – just because we’ve been there and done that – it would be churlish not to acknowledge what a brilliant thing has happened at Bournemouth.
This isn’t to say I like them. When I see Eddie Howe’s cherubic demeanour I see a mask that hides pure evil. The evil is coaching his players to fake and cheat for advantage. It has been working for years – and it winds me up.
But this isn’t much different from Graham Taylor being accused of playing “long ball” football – which worked and wound other fans up. It exploited what brings success in football just as Bournemouth’s faking and cheating does.
Thirty years on, I still feel the urge to defend GT’s approach, and I’m sure Bournemouth fans will do the same for Howe’s approach forever. Same thing. Fair enough.
Yesterday, I went to the game at the Vitality Stadium – the first time I’d been to Boscombe since 1995. On arrival, I wanted to deride the club for being tiny – for the dissonance of Premier League football being played on the edge of a park in a sleepy seaside suburb. It felt ridiculous. Laughable.
But then I stopped to compare. What happened 30 years ago under Elton and GT in a dull and declining town was similarly ridiculous. But it wasn’t laughable to me. For me, it really was the best thing ever.
And the dissonance of a sleepy suburb sustainably hosting the high-profile hype of the Premier League – when cities like Leeds, Sunderland, Derby, and Nottingham fail – struck me as the kind of underdog insolence that, instinctively, I love.
So I get it now. I don’t like Bournemouth at all but, in truth, they’re my kind of club. They’re the kind of club I have loved supporting the whole of my life. They’re us, 35 years ago.
But I can’t allow myself to finish with such charitable thoughts. They’re Bournemouth. They’ve got Eddie Howe.
So let’s not say they’re us, 35 years ago. Let’s say we’re 35 years ahead of Bournemouth.