Underdog - The Amazing Story of AFC Bournemouth

Posted by martin parnell |
Underdog - The Amazing Story of AFC Bournemouth

As a lad of 13 living in a small town in Devon in the South West of England one of my greatest pleasures was every other Saturday going to see the greatest football team on the planet, Plymouth Argyle. Of course, they weren’t the greatest team on the planet, and some seasons, not even the greatest team in Devon. But my dedication to them was unwavering. My Dad had supported them and so had his Dad and the tradition ran deep.

In soccer, it’s easy to support a top team. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal all have had many highs over the years. Whether it’s Champions League, Premier League or FA cup triumphs these fans never seem to have to wait long to cheer about something. However, in the lower leagues it’s very different. Season after season you live in hope that one day a miracle will happen, that one day your little team will be in the lime light. In the case of Plymouth I’m still waiting for that day but 130 miles up the coast is AFC Bournemouth, a team that my wife Sue supports, and that’s a very different story.

In February 2008, Bournemouth were forced into administration, suffering a 10-point deduction which put them in relegation trouble. The club had debts of around £4 million and almost went out of business completely. They even had a bake sale to raise some money. The off-field uncertainty continued throughout the season, and the club ended up being relegated to League 2. Ahead of the 2008–09 season, the team's future in the Football League was put into doubt when the league threatened to block Bournemouth's participation in League Two, due to problems with the team's continuing administration and change in ownership.

It ordered Bournemouth to demonstrate that they could fulfil all of their fixtures and find a way out of administration, eventually allowing the club to compete with a 17-point penalty for failing to follow the Football League insolvency rules. Former player Eddie Howie took over as manager with the club still 10 points adrift at the bottom of the league and initially on a caretaker basis, becoming the youngest manager in the Football League at the age of 31.

Over the following 8 years things improved and this tiny club achieved promotion through the ranks of the Football League. From League 2 to League 1, then on to the Championship and this year into the Barclays Premiership. Over the next 10 months they will be playing some of the top teams in the world. In early December,  they play Manchester United at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium which seats a cozy 11,700 supporters. However, in the last game of the season, they’ll be traveling to Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, which holds over 75,000 spectators.

It was a rough start to the season for the club with two, 1-0 losses to Aston Villa and Liverpool. But then a historic victory took place in their third game, a 4-3 win at West Ham United, their first ever goals and points in the Premier League. It’s not going to be an easy season for the Cherries but Sue and I will be cheering them on each week because that’s what you do when you support an underdog.

Do you have a team or sports person you’ve followed and cheered on from when they were an unknown to making it in the big time?

comments powered by Disqus