You know, I feel naked without a midweek game. *Snaps fingers* I know – we shall make our own entertainment with another of those match previews I used to do long, long ago! Wait, no, that would be far too much effort so I shall interview someone instead. The lazy blogger’s solution: ask someone else to do it! That’s right, I shall invite Peter Bell of AFC Bournemouth’s Cherry Chimes to ‘contribute’ a paragraph or seven. Hehheh, the perfect plan…
My own questions are in bold, otherwise you’re reading one of Peter’s responses.
JWAW: Hi Peter, wonderful to speak with you again! Our paths last crossed back in August just before the showdown at Dean Court. Looking back at that interview, you specifically mentioned Ryan Fraser as a player to look out for. If memory serves (and it may not considering I have taped over my mental video tape of the game), that transpired to be a wonderful prediction. Have you since become a professional psychic, and has Mr Fraser continued to impress since that day?
Peter Bell: It is not always easy to work out who is likely to have a good game for AFCB, especially as Eddie Howe has found it hard to pick a consistent starting eleven. Ryan Fraser has had a good start to the season, although we now have Matt Ritchie back and Marc Pugh also fighting for a place on the wings. The pleasing thing about Fraser was that he started to bring goals to his game. His goal against Millwall started a comeback from 0:2 down and we went on to win that game quite comfortably in the end. He is simply a little dynamo and could feature against Wigan. He does go down frequently, because of his speed but referees have not been giving him many free kicks!
Ryan Fraser (c)Peter Bell
Ah, just like Marc-Antoine Fortune then! The free kick thing, not the blistering speed. But I’ve always maintained that the Championship is an unpredictable league. A quick glance at some of Bournemouth’s results seems to confirm this, at least to me – you have been involved in many high-scoring games and only a couple of 0-0s. Has your life in this league really been as exciting as I just made it sound?
It has been a terrific season. A few weeks ago we were going through a really bad spell when we could not buy a win. I think that was also not helped by our record signing Tokelo Rantie firing a few blanks in front of goal. He scored an absolute corker against Burnley from distance, but he has not found the back of the net since and has been dropped of late.
But our away form started to pick up with the Reading match and that win gave the team the confidence they needed. We started playing 4-1-4-1 with Eunan O’Kane sitting in front of the back four. This has made us much harder to beat and the goals against have started to come. Being harder to beat was also helped by the loan signing of Lee Camp in goal and he has just signed a 2.5 year deal with us which is great.
We have also seen the return of Tommy Elphick, our captain at centre back. The timing of that was lucky because Steve Cook suffered an injury and Tommy has fitted straight back in. Together with Elliott Ward, Elphick has been excellent at the back.
Our goal power has certainly been enhanced with the return of Matt Ritchie as well on the right wing. His touch and the precision of his shooting is Premiership class already.
Matt Ritchie (c)Peter Bell
Right, on to this weekend’s game. I am wary of asking for a prediction because you seem to be uncannily good at prophesising a positive result for Bournemouth… but I simply have to do so. (Deep breath) What would you like to see (heart) and what do you think you will see (head) on Saturday?
All games in the Championship are hard to predict. It is asking a lot of our players to win away again against Wigan. The good thing is for us that many of our players will have rested not having played Burton Albion in the cup yet and should be fresh. Most of them will also have played at the DW stadium last season in the FA Cup. But you played a second strength team against us then and this will be more difficult. Wigan’s form under Uwe Rosler has been excellent since he has come in and while our away form has been good I make you favourites for this one, so the head says 2:0 Wigan. I can’t leave it there though, so if the football gods are smiling on us on the day I could see us coming away with a 1:1 draw, like we did against Brighton on New Year’s Day is possible according to the heart.
Lewis Grabban has proved he is worth every penny and more of his (reported) £300,000 transfer fee. Indeed, he was the man who gratefully converted James Perch’s assist when the two teams last met. Just how scared should Wigan be of him, and would it be a good idea to have the physical Grant Holt man-marking (read: manhandling) him?
Ha, ha! We like to keep quiet about Mr Grabban, after all the January window is open. But you are right, he has been one of our surprise successes and he works tirelessly in stretching defences and making opportunities for others. Most of his goals come on the break and if he had taken a few more one-on-one opportunities he could be sitting higher in the goal scoring chart.
Lewis Grabban (c)Peter Bell
I wonder if Mr Perch would like to play for us for five minutes in this match as he did the last time Wigan played us? I don’t think Scott Carson was too pleased with that back pass. But getting back to Lewis, I don’t think he scores many headers in the box and Grant Holt won’t have much need or chance to rough him up in the box on set plays. Grant Holt is more likely to have a physical battle against Elliott Ward, who will be looking for him when Wigan is on the attack and trying to come up for headers when we have corners.
I don’t know what you’re talking about, Perch’s through ball was world class… anyway, anyone else in the Cherries ranks we should be keeping a close eye on?
There are a few players who are coming back to fitness who Eddie could bring into the squad. Mohamed Coulibaly has not played since our exhibition match with Real Madrid in the summer (just thought I’d drop that one in) but he is a zippy firecracker of a player that can leave others standing. You will also be pleased to hear that Eunan O’Kane is back in the team and playing well. He scored an absolute beauty against Yeovil the other week, beating three players and cutting in from the right wing, before hitting a sweet shot to the bottom right corner of the goal! I think he would like another goal against Wigan to add to his collection. Josh McQuoid also could be available having played against Ipswich recently and he has an eye for goal and used to play for Millwall. He is in his second spell at AFCB, and we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Finally, Harry Arter has still been a bit quiet this season apart from his collection of yellow cards and he could be due a goal or two from central midfield, so watch out for him.
Dean Court (c)Chris Downer
Of course, those of us who weren’t at the DW to witness Eunan O’Kane’s goal in person have seen the DVDs. A roight corker, it was!
Finally, I shall update a question I posed back in August. Given what you have witnessed thus far, would you still be happy with 15th place in the league? And now you have a taste of Championship football, do you crave a long-term stint in the division?
I think most AFCB fans would bite your hand off if you could guarantee them 15th place now. While it would be nice to challenge some of the bigger clubs for a play-off place, this season is all about consolidation. If we can stay in the Championship and build on our squad it will have been a successful year.
There are a couple of factors that will help the club build for the future. Keeping Eddie Howe and letting him bring through players in the youth squads is vital for us. We also need to resist other Championship clubs coming in for our best players, while adding to the squad and moving on some of those who have not made the grade. There are quite a few in the latter category and I expect a clear out of many by the summer.
The final piece in the puzzle is how much our Russian owners will be able to spend with the Financial Fair Play rules and their own budget? We have seen that even when you do break the record transfer fee it does not guarantee success so our decisions must be patient and based on a good scouting system. We are all very excited to see if another striker will arrive this January, but if we have to wait for the summer I think we still have enough about us to survive this season in the Championship. And who knows, we might even have a good cup run. I think the prospect of a home tie against Liverpool will encourage our players to give their all against Burton Albion after the Wigan game. So don’t go injuring our players!
Don’t worry, we won’t… much (heheh). Thank you, Peter, for taking part in this mini-interview, which has offered great insight into the club for the outsider such as I. Here, have this virtual pie as a symbol of my appreciation. It’s chip flavour! (Geddit, like a computer chip?) …Okay. Cheers!
Oh, and don’t forget to bookmark Pete’s Cherry Chimes for the ‘return leg’ of this two part drama in two theatres 250 miles apart. That’s if you can put up with another second of my ‘witty’ commentary, of course.