Seven short months ago, a whole division separated Wigan and Bournemouth when they drew swords for an FA Cup tie spread over two matches. On the pitch, however, the teams were far more evenly matched than their respective statuses might have suggested. The then-League One side, in the midsts of an unbelievable run of league form, emerged with far greater credit as they eventually bowed out to the rarest of rarities, a Mauro Boselli goal. Unlucky indeed, Bournemouth.
Fast forward through a scarcely believable cup campaign, soured only by a (bottom three finish), and the rematch is here already. In just three days, Bournemouth will have the chance to avenge their unfortunate demise when Latics travel to Goldsands once more. A tough prospect indeed, but at least the weather promises to play along this time. Or so the BBC Weather app tells me, but the signal is so bad I half expect a hurricane.
Enoughblah. Peter Bell, life-long supporter and webmaster of Bournemouth fansite Cherry Chimes, has very kindly offered to answer a few questions straight from the JWAW Mastermind database ahead of what should be another engrossing Championship showdown. Hey, they’re all exciting games in this division!
JWAW: Hi Peter! I love your website, Cherry Chimes. The thing I enjoy most about fan blogs is the unadulterated DIY ethic, with content from the people who really know about the club. What inspired you to start up the site, and what do you feel is the most rewarding thing about it?
Peter: I am glad you like Cherry Chimes. It just started it as a hobby and when fans started to read it and said “keep writing”, I thought okay – can I offer something different to the other sites out there talking about AFC Bournemouth? The inspiration was really the return of Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall, back in October 2012. We had gone on such a bad run before their return that many fans were falling out of love with club and when Eddie came back everything seemed to be fixed again. It was back to the family club we all knew and love. The good feeling seemed to galvanise everyone. The result was the promotion push that took us from 21st place in October 2012 to second by the end of May 2013.
The most rewarding thing about the blog has to be the feedback I receive from fellow supporters. I didn’t expect to be so easily accepted and liked just for spouting my views about the club, but it appears that I often say things that people can identify with. I don’t mind if they disagree either. My intention has been to get everyone involved and the response has been fantastic.
J: That’s certainly something I can identify with at JWAW. But congratulations on your promotion to the Championship! I know it’s only been a couple of weeks, but how are you finding life in England’s second-highest tier? I expect the novelty might have worn off with the unfortunate result at Watford last week, but are you enjoying your new surroundings?
P: The excitement on that first day when we played Charlton was unbelievable. I just wanted to get down to Dean Court and savour every moment. Everyone has worked so hard to get AFC Bournemouth to this position and, like most fans, I had to pinch myself when I looked at that fixture list. Winning the first game was a big plus. We could all say yeah, we do belong at this level.
I guess we did come crashing down to earth last Saturday when Watford basically tore us apart in the second half, but that’s football. We knew there would be highs and lows. Three points from two games is not a bad return, but we have to learn fast. I can’t wait for the next game, so you can’t keep AFC Bournemouth fans down for long.
J: I must say I was very impressed with your performance in the two FA Cup games with Wigan back in January. I still maintain we were fortunate to win through thanks to a couple of iffy refereeing decisions as you played fantastically well, especially in the first game. Do you feel you have a stronger team than seven months ago and can you go one better on Saturday?
P: We are stronger in that we have a bigger squad and probably more players that can come into the side that are of equal ability. I still put Wigan as slight favourites for the game, even with us at home. We did not really play Wigan’s best team and this time we will. But Eddie Howe will not change the way we play and what has worked so well for us at home in recent months.
It is a big ask for us to beat a former Premier League club but I am sure we will give it a real good go. Wigan will have eleven players on the pitch like us and our players are more familiar with the surroundings, so I expect us to perform well. These are the matches that our players were striving so hard to achieve last season. It is their reward now and their chance to show they can compete with the best that the Championship has to offer. I still think Wigan will have to have an off day and we would have to play very well, but I would not be surprised if we did follow up a 6:1 defeat with a victory or a draw. We are strong at home.
J: Victory or draw? OK, let’s play devil’s advocate here. Can you give us an exact prediction for Saturday? Any particular Bournemouth players we should keep an eye on, or would you prefer not to divulge such sensitive information in case Owen Coyle is reading?
P: Eek! I hoped you wouldn’t ask me to be as bold as make a prediction. Well, considering our players will be keen to rebound after last week and Wigan may be a bit cautious, I’m actually going to go for a goal shy 0:0. I don’t think we will over commit like last weekend and I certainly expect us to be tighter at the back. I can also see wither team winning one nil, but then I would be having three guesses at a prediction, ha, ha!
The player who has been shinning for us so far is Ryan Fraser on the right wing. He hardly played last season but he is a Scotland U-21 international and just seems to get better and better. You will see a lot of his crosses and boy is he quick.
J: I’ll email Coyle my scouting report right away! Moving on, however… What are your hopes and dreams for the remainder of the season? What sort of result would you be happy with come June 2014?
P: Like most of the Bournemouth fans I am going to enjoy the ride no matter where we end up this season. While I can see us struggling against some sides we will also turn over a good few as well. When we get our passing together the team is a joy to watch. As for a final place, I have said 15th would be more than satisfactory.
J: And finally… I really enjoyed the appearance of Cherry Bear at the FA Cup tie at the DW in January. We’ve been starved of furry mascots in the ‘upmarket’ Premier League and it was brilliant to witness him lead out the team. I see you have some pictures of him on your site; are you on speaking terms with him?
P: Ha, ha. I do love the homemade quality of Cherry Bear. I’ve never managed to get a word out of him but I have had many high fives. He recently had his caricature done for the Birthday cards in the club shop and I think he is enjoying the stardom of being in the Championship.
J: The strong silent type, eh? Those mascots invariably are, I find. Before our time is over, is there anything else you would like to add?
P: I just want to say thank you for letting me on Jesus was a Wiganer. I hope your fans have a safe journey down and back. They should enjoy the stadium, our new club shop (check out the Steve Fletcher mannequin), as well as the beach. It should be a great day out and I am sure many of them will make a weekend of it. Oh, and all the best on going straight back up – Wigan surely have a good chance.
JWAW: No, thank you!
Hello, it’s me, Dan, typing in the non-bold text again. How’ve you been, and did you enjoy that little conversation? I certainly did. The return leg of this interview series will be posted shortly at Cherry Chimes if it isn’t already, so head on down there to read Peter’s interview with that JWAW bloke. I promise there’s no mention of pies, Uncle Joe’s or other such northern stereotypes I like to fall back on in my hour of desperation.