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.