At the start of the 2008/09 season, AFC Bournemouth sat at the bottom of League 2 with -17 points, following a deduction for financial troubles which almost saw the club crumble into administration.
Six seasons later, Eddie Howe has led the Cherries to unknown lands, reaching the Premier League for the first time in their history.
With promotion practically sealed following the 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, AFC Bournemouth still had the Championship title in their sights, as they needed to better Watford’s result to grab top-spot.
A late Sheffield Wednesday equaliser pegged back Watford, ensuring Harry Arter’s goal and a Matt Ritchie brace gave the Cherries the title, topping off a fairy-tale story, the likes of which will rarely be repeated.
Ross Maffey looks at the defining moments of Bournemouth’s history-making campaign:
Losing last season’s top goal scorer , Lewis Grabban, looked to be a blow to the Cherries even before the first game of the campaign. However, after picking up Coventry striker, Callum Wilson, the Cherries haven’t looked back. Wilson is top scorer for Bournemouth, with 20 league goals and has added a cutting edge to the team’s attacking play, his frightening pace and agility giving opposing defenders a plethora of problems.
Loan signing Artur Boruc has added Premier League quality between the sticks for the Cherries. Along with the free-scoring strikers, we mustn’t overlook the valuable contribution that the defence add to the squad, leaving Bournemouth on a goal difference of +53 in the league.
Eddie Howe will be keen to retain the services of the Southampton goalkeeper, his experience in the top flight could be crucial for the Cherries to assert their place in the worlds biggest league.
With 44 goals and 29 assists between them, the front trio of Matt Ritchie, Marc Pugh and Callum Wilson have provided unrivalled pace down the wide channels and killer finishing in the centre to net the most goals in the top four divisions in England.
Ritchie’s ability to beat a man with fast footwork will certainly come in useful next season, as Bournemouth will struggle to repeat their free-scoring form against quality defences.
Steve Cook and Tommy Elphick have started every Bournemouth league game this season, their partnership in the middle of the defense has provided solidity and reliability all season. This partnership, as well as the familiar faces of Simon Francis and Charlie Daniels, who have been rarely disturbed in the starting team sheet during the last 3 years, gave Bournemouth the second best defensive record in the league, conceding 45 goals.
Even during the tricky spells in February, where Bournemouth went 5 games without a win, and surrendered their lead at the top of the table, the Cherries, led by Eddie Howe stuck to their system and squad rotation.
With a strong importance on possession and moving the ball quickly, Bournemouth introduced a system which was both effective and attractive, bringing sellout crowds to the Goldsands all season.
Eddie Howe’s side recorded a 14-game unbeaten streak, and most recently a 13-game unbeaten streak, allowing them to stay in contention for the title throughout the campaign.
Little is known about the camera shy Russian investor, Maxim Denim, who has invested in the club to save them from the brink of collapse. His financial resources giving Bournemouth the ability to develop infrastructure and depth in the squad.
Despite recent criticism of this investment from certain managers, it must be mentioned that the majority of players who have been crucial to the club’s recent successes have been a part of the team during their promotions from league two.
Several players were given debuts for their national squads this season, with Bournemouth’s success being recognised on a larger scale. The confidence this exerts on the players could be seen as defining.
Matt Ritchie was called up for Gordon Strachan’s Scotland side, where he played a direct part in the games only goal. Harry Arter was amongst the substitutes during Wales’ friendly against Poland, where Artur Boruc was in the opposite dugout.
Callum Wilson and Baily Cargill played for the England U21’s and U20’s respectively; Cargill’s debut goal earned England a draw against Canada at the Goldsands.
There are few comparison that can be made to the job that Eddie Howe has undertaken at Bournemouth. He has guided the Cherries to their third promotion in five years under his management, with his faithful right-hand man, Jason Tindall.
As a former player, Howe has had a long running love affair with the club. Taking over 6 years ago and coming back for a second managerial spell, Howe has remained away from the spotlight, remained modest at times of success and stayed away from any form of controversy throughout.
Upon promotion, Howe has gained the attention he deserves, and at a tender age of 37, surely has much more to offer the footballing world on the biggest stage of all.