Sunday, 29 March 2015

Ritchie gets 45 minutes for Scotland

It was a bit of a mixed reaction by Scottish fans on Matt Ritchie's performance in the first 45 minutes against Gibraltar. While he made a great through ball for Shaun Maloney to get on to which led to the initial penalty and gave Scotland the lead, Ritchie did not get on the ball as much as he does for the Cherries and while Scotland were looking shaking at the back at times, he was replaced at half time for another defender - Gordon Greer.
Matt is just getting used to the international scene.
Of course, this was only Matt's second cap and Gordon Strachan is probably aware of what potential Matt has and that AFCB are involved in a massive race for the Championship. For all we know Eddie Howe may have asked that Matt be not asked to play 90 minutes in both matches while he was away with the Scotland squad. Scotland were also 4-1 up at half time and so the points were really in the bag for this game by half time considering Gibraltar had not scored this campaign in any of their other fixtures. 

It was still noticeable that Ritchie was chosen to start ahead of Derby's Johnny Russell both against Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. Strachan clearly was not worried about putting Matt right into the heat of battle with a European Qualifier and while Gibraltar are not the most dangerous of sides, the fact that they scored against Scotland and gave them plenty of problems in the first 20 minutes illustrated that they are not the push over some might have thought.
Matt is hopefully going to return fresh for AFCB.
I did feel Matt did not get on the ball as much as he would have liked and when he did get it he did find the big number nine - Steven Fletcher - quite well with his crosses and if Strachan is looking for a quality crosser of the ball, then Matt should be in his plans going forward. It is not only Matt Ritchie who needs to get to know how Gordon Strachan's team play, Scotland also need to try and give Matt what he needs to get the best out of him. 

We did see Matt have one shot in the first half against Gibraltar but it was tame and right at the keeper. It is may be going to take Matt a bit more time to contribute in a Scotland shirt as well as he does in an AFCB shirt but I was just thankful that he did not pick up an injury and that he can use the experience to add to what he has already learnt in the Championship.

Scotland ran out 6-1 winners against Gibraltar.

Sky presenters get to work at AFC Bournemouth (videos)

There was plenty of fun and a few jobs for Sky presenters Jim white and Natalie Sawyer at Dean Court before the Middlesbrough match. I got down to the ground early as I knew they would be around and I wanted to see whether the banter that we often see on screen is the same when they would be meeting the fans and hopefully doing some work to keep AFCB bringing in the cash.
It started  out as a friendly competition to puts some names and numbers on the back of shirts. 
Jim was rather chuffed with his Scottish McRitchie shirt.
Natalie was taking it very seriously and wanted to do a good
 job especially with Jim trying to put her off.

Natalie's turn to make Callum Wilson's shirt.

The Sky Bet Transfer Fund had arranged for Jim and Natalie to be job transferred from their TV studio to the ground as a way of meeting some of the fans and helping out on match day. I caught up with the two presenters as they were heading for the club shop. Jim was keen to get his hands on a McRitchie shirt following the call up for AFCB's new Scottish international squad member who will hopefully get to play in the Euro 2016 qualifiers now. So Barry in the shop got Jim to work on the shirt press to see if Jim could get the letters on straight and Jim managed to keep his yellow tie safe from danger and was quickly bragging about what a great job he had done, before Nathalie got her chance to make a Callum Wilson shirt. I am not to sure if she was confident when she heard the number she had to put on the shirt was  number 13, while Jim was doing everything he could to put her off asking if she had printed 31.

The two presenters moved on to selling some merchandise on the front till, although the queue was building quickly with the long conversations that were now taking place as everyone wanted to have a chat with the likable presenters, while Jim was cracking jokes all the time and putting smiles on faces.
Behind the till in the shop
Serving customers.

Natalie was drawing in the crowds outside.
Jim was also getting lots of photos taken.
Outside Natalie was certainly getting a lot of attention as she did a bit better at selling the Matchday programmes than Jim. The male fans were keen to get a few selfies with Natalie who was more than happy to oblige as long as she out sold Jim which was never really a problem for her.

Natalie is much in demand.

Jim goes close!

I also managed to have a word with Jim and Natalie and thanked them on behalf of our competition winners as Sky Bet had given us three pairs of tickets in the end to give away to AFCB fans for the Middlesbrough match which proved to be a big hit.

At half time the two presenters also had a go at hitting the cross bar, but I think they both need to spend a bit more time on the training pitch before they have another go in front of the crowds.

AFCB International watch Finally, well done to Shaun MacDonald in coming on for Wales yesterday in the 84th minute to help see Wales get a 0-3 away win against Israel.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

It was just a perfect day

I'm still getting a thrill out of last weekend and hopefully it's still doing the same for you and for the players. When you go to Dean Court and you see the English Championship Trophy being unboxed in front of you and paraded on its stand for the fans and viewing public to see on TV, you know it is going to be a rather special day. It is really hard to imagine that AFCB are within touching distance of such a prize, but there is a buzz around the ground and the team that is willing them and Eddie to win their first title now and why not? Some team has to win it and the Cherries have been top for more weeks than any other team in the Championship even if the lead has changed some 19 times.
Wouldn't it be great if Tommy Elphick could be lifting this in May.
I must admit I was a bit transfixed by the sight of the silver work in front of me before the match against Middlesbrough. I never realised it was quite so intricately engraved and really a beautiful trophy. I wasn't the only one as many fans that were in the Family and Main stand were soon coming to take a look and having been so close to winning a title two season's ago, you get the feeling that the club knows it has to seize the moment now if it is going to do justice to all the hard work that has been put into the season so far.

Seizing the moment is certainly what happened on 21 March when Eddie's team set about making the best defensive side in the league look extremely average or out of sorts against a rampaging Cherries side that created chance after chance and was by far the better side on the day. 

With the sun casting shadows over the pitch by the time the final whistle had gone, I knew that this had been a very special day. Even Eddie Howe looked like he was relaxed and enjoying the moment although that might have been helped by the thought of the team about to fly off for a few days in the sun - well at least the players not on international duty. The Dubai training camp will really concentrate the players' minds on what is ahead of them and I hope that it is a positive battery charger for them. I think hanging around at home waiting for the next few games will be harder for us fans than for the team, but hopefully we will all have something to celebrate on 2 May. UTCIAD!

Well done to Jake McCarthy who has signed a new two-and-a-half-year contract with the club. there are also new one-year deals for six other players in the Development Squad - goalkeeper Patrick O’Flahertry, full-back Callum Buckley, and midfielders Josh Carmichael, Josh Wakefield, Mason Walsh and Ben Whitfield. Congratulations to them all.

However, Kaye and Aristide Bassele are set to be released.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Injuries are not what AFCB need now

The match against Middlesbrough came at the end of another hard period of games for AFCB. It was not great to see both Callum Wilson and Marc Pugh limp off the field towards the end of the game but a lot can happen in 13 days and it will be interesting to see whether either of them make it back to be fully fit for the Ipswich match. 
Marc Pugh will have to recuperate over the
international break to get his ankle better. Eddie Howe said
 it was an impact injury and should not be a long term problem..
If not then we could see a change to the strike force for the Portman Road game, while Ryan Fraser is possibly the most likely stand in for Pugh. It is going to be a period of time now when AFCB just have to wait and see how their players come through the international matches and who is going to be available. 

I saw that Southampton lost Fraser Forster in their game against Burnley but thankfully the Saints cannot recall Artur Boruc at this stage of the season. Artur himself will be involved in Poland's international against the Republic of Ireland and could go face to face with Harry Arter. Meanwhile, Matt Ritchie will also hopefully come through unscathed from his time with the Scottish squad while Shaun MacDonald also has a call up for Wales.

I can't remember a recent period when so many of AFCB's players have had call ups. Even Bailey Cargill will be playing for England's U20s and Benjamin Buchel is with the Liechtenstein
squad. It has been a great time for Bournemouth players and you can start to understand why fans of other clubs get nervous around this time when their players are involved in internationals. It will probably mean that I will take more interest in the friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers just because I'll want to see how well the AFCB players do, but I kind of also feel that the internationals are a bit of a hindrance at such a crucial stage of the season.

Wilson has been playing despite the niggles

I was  a bit worried to hear that Callum Wilson has had to have injections before the last few games for AFCB just to help his toes and that one of his knees has been giving him some trouble as well. When he came off against Middlesbrough you could see that he was walking pretty uncomfortably and it looked like his face was telling everyone that he might not be able to meet up with the England U21 squad. Since then we have heard that he will not be joining up with that squad which is a big pity for him, but clearly not necessarily bad news for the Cherries at this stage of the season.
Callum will be hoping that he is fit enough to take part against Ipswich Town.
Sometimes the club is very good at hiding injuries and niggles to players and the difficulties that Callum Wilson has been experiencing is something that might explain why he has been so eager to keep scoring and to keep playing. He has hardly missed any games though this season and with call ups for the England U21s as well, I am sure that AFCB are being really careful not to burn him out. He has been great this season but AFCB will also want him to be no less productive next season and long term management of players is always the way clubs try and look after such prestigious talent.

Being Callum's first Championship season he will probably find when he looks back at the season and feel that he gave it his all and his all has been the catalyst for the Cherries' startling season. I would expect there to be many Coventry fans still willing him on to achieve more and the summer offers him the chance to play for his country in a big tournament if selected. That means no real rest though for Callum and if he is already finding that he needs treatment it probably isn't going to get any easier for him. If this is what he can do though when he doesn't quite feel 100 per cent, I imagine that AFCB really do have a top quality striker on their books who will one day play for the full England international side.

The signing of Kenwyne Jones on loan enables Callum to get fully fit before coming back into the team and it may be just what he needs right now so I hope everyone gets behind Kenwyne and makes him feel welcome. What it says about Cardiff's season is perhaps more telling as one of the hot promotion favourites are languishing in mid-table and the chance to reduce the wage bill looks like it was too hard to resist for Russell Slade who is also a good friend of Eddie Howe. 

Good luck to Josh Carmichael at Havant & Waterlooville, Josh O'Hanlon at York City and Mohamed Coulibaly at PortVale.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

What's behind Kenwyne Jones' AFCB loan move?

The Bournemouth Echo is among those sources of media that have been reporting that Kenwyne Jones is on his way to AFCB on loan until the end of the season. My first thought was to rub my eyes and make sure what I was reading was true. Then I started to think the injuries to Callum Wilson may be taking its toll on him and Eddie Howe may have been forced into making a signing if he did not think Callum Wilson was going to be available for the next few games.

The news comes on the back of what is likely to be a failed attempt to entice Arsenal's England U20 striker Chuba Akom to the south coast. It is clear though that AFCB have decided that the final run of games needs more fire power it they are to succeed in their ambition to get promoted. Fans had been wondering if the failure to sign any striker in January would diminish the Cherries' chances of finishing in the top two but with seven games remaining they remain in pole position.

As for Kenwyne Jones, he has not had that bad a season as he is Cardiff City's top scorer on 13 goals, 11 of which were in the league. For AFCB though this is a big named signing and for Kenwyne it is really a trial to see if he can take the Cherries up and so secure a place in a Premier League team next season. He must have impressed during the recent game with Cardiff where AFCB were disappointed not to come away with a win. But with Kenwyne in AFCB's team they could be heading up in style - if you know what I mean.

AFCB have certainly been making noises around the forward front this week with reports of Rickie Lambert also being perhaps a summer target if the Cherries can secure Premier League status. Carlton Cole who AFCB were looking at last summer looks keen on a move to Brentford rather than the Cherries.

While not everything is moving in one direction, Mohamed Coulibaly, who was sponsored by Cherry Chimes last season looks set to join Port Vale on loan.

Cook and Elphick had Bamford in their pocket

The pre-match hype for the AFCB v Middlesbrough game was all about Patrick Bamford and Callum Wilson. Which U21 striker would prevail in one of the games of the season? Bamford had been in sparkling form before this fixture having scored four in his last four games and all AFCB fans were being told is that you have to keep Bamford quiet if you are to get anything from this match.
Patrick Bamford couldn't escape the clutches of Elphick and Cook last Saturday.
When the final whistle went though AFCB fans were saying Bamford who? That is the job that Tommy Elphick and Steve Cook did, it was magnificent. They managed a complete shut out against a team that was said to be riding high having just beaten Derby and Ipswich. I was expecting to see the power of Albert Adomah and trickery lee Tomlin cause the Cherries problems at the back, but they were stopped from creating and with Bamford starved of service it never looked like the striker on Chelsea's books was going to add to his 16 goals of the season.

It was a match when the best attack would go up against the best defence and AFCB's attack was far superior on the day. Still Middlesbrough had not suffered such a defeat all season and to not manage a shot on target says all you need to know about how Steve Cook and Tommy Elphick did on the day.
Another good shut out for Steve and Tommy.
When we reach the end of the season and you are looking at who should be player of the season, don't forget that AFCB's central defenders have been incredible in what has only been their second season in the Championship.

Meanwhile, Matt Ritchie made his Scotland debut at Hampden Park last night wearing No8 and he started the game and made the assist for Scotland's goal that Christophe Berra scored from Matt Ritchie's corner in the 85th minute - Scotland 1 v 0 N Ireland. Ritchie might now play against Gibraltar on Sunday in the Euro 2016 qualifier. The official AFCB site has a fill AFCB international player fixture list.

Finally, the Independent was reporting last night that Arsenal and England U20 striker Chuba Akpom could be on his way to signing on loan with AFCB today, although Norwich and Forest are also in the running for his signature.