The riches and lights of the Premier league; something every lower league fan can only dream of their club making. I certainly did, even as we were hit by back to back points deductions and administration. At that point it looked like exactly that, a Football Manager Dream.
Then as we sing from the terraces, Eddie had a dream.
When the board made the appointment of Mr Eddie Howe on the 19th January 2009, it was a last roll of the dice. There was very little other option, we were 10 points from safety in League Two having been given a -17 points deduction. The club was staring down the barrel of oblivion, there was no way the club, our club, would survive relegation from the football league.
What happened next has been well documented and I won’t repeat the hundreds of other articles about this. Instead I would like to offer an insight few clubs fans can claim to have, I’ve seen my team play in every tier of the football league in the premier league era.
The first change is a very subtle one, club awareness. Even 5 years ago in the Championship my red and black shirts were regularly mistaken for Manchester City away strips, AC Milan strips or even once or twice Histon FC colours. In my school as a kid there was at most half a dozen Bournemouth fans. Now when I’m in Dorset there are kids in every town in Red and Black pretending to be Wilson, Daniels and Cook. At the Euro’s in France in 2016 people wanted to talk about how we’d done against Chelsea or Manchester United.
The second point is perhaps more obvious, the difference in locations of games. In years gone by I would spend the week working out the train route from Cambridge (where I live) to Grimsby or Hartlepool, if you’re lucky you’ll get within walking distance of the ground. Now you can often get off a train at the ground.
Once you arrive near Huish Park in Yeovil or the County Ground at Swindon, you will often find home and away fans mixed and mingling in pubs and bars with space to move and share stories. When you arrive at Old Trafford or the London Stadium you’ll head to a sweaty away pub that’s full to burst. I’m not sure I’ve had a drink with a home fan on a single premier league away day.
The grounds themselves are an extension of this, there are stadiums in the EFL where fans stand in blocks next to one another and the catering is a questionable burger van. Sadly, these grounds are disappearing with more and more identikit stadiums. Whereas in the historic grounds of Stamford Bridge and Anfield for example, you can be sat next to the prawn sandwich brigade on their first visit to the premier league.
The final inescapable difference is of course the players. While AFCB have arguably only ever signed one household name in Jermain Defoe you can feel the relationship shift between the players and fans. Several years ago, I bumped into some of our players at the time in a bar in Nottingham, there is no way they’d have known my name, but they recognised me as a regular fan and had a chat with me. I doubt there are many players in the EPL that would/could do the same.
Yet with all of the above changes in such a short space of time this journey we have been on, despite some of the negativity around our rise, has been amazing. From a fans point of view it truly is the fairy tale we all dreamt of for all these years, long may it continue! Up the Cherries!
You can read more from @AFCBNG next week with his preview of the best Bournemouth FPL assets