LONDON: Bournemouth will play in the Premier League next season for the first time in their 116-year history. Mathematically they are not quite there but the likelihood of a 20-goal turnaround in favour of pursuers Middlesbrough at the weekend is minimal.
Even more unlikely, in fact, as Premier League accession would have seemed six years ago when manager Eddie Howe’s men began a season in the fourth division with a minus-17 points penalty for entering administration, the next step to bankruptcy.
Locally-born Howe was assured the third promotion of his managerial career with the Cherries on Monday night when goals from midfielder Mark Pugh and forwards Matt Ritchie and Callum Wilson brought a 3:0 win over Bolton in front of a capacity 12,000 at Dean Court.
Bournemouth is a seaside town with a population of 400,000 on the south coast, better known until now for its pier and as a retirement destination.
Their remarkable rise is partly due to their own Roman Abramovich in little-known Russian millionaire Maxim Demin who became the club’s full owner in 2013, after having bought a 50pc stake two years earlier.
Demin, the director of a petrochemicals company south of London, became interested in the club after building a £5m mansion just outside Bournemouth at Sandbanks which is reputed to be the most expensive residential region in all of Britain.
Until January 2012, Bournemouth’s transfer record was the £210,000 paid for Gavin Peacock in 1989. That was duly smashed in the first transfer window following Demin’s arrival – striker Matt Tubbs signing for £800,000.
The club has continued to increase expenditure on transfers ever since, yet with match-day and commercial revenues dwarfed by those of their rivals, Bournemouth have been reliant on the deep pockets of Demin to refine their squad.
When the south coast club seized promotion to the second division [Championship] two seasons ago, they did so as League One’s biggest spenders, having splashed £1.38m, more than £1m more than anyone else. In the process the Cherries had to admit an £15.3m loss and needed an £8.7m loan from their owner to ease the burden.
Founded in 1899, the original Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic Football Club played in cherry-red shirts – hence the nickname – until 1971. Then they switched to Milan-style red and black stripes and changed their football club name to AFC Bournemouth.
Their greatest successes – until now – were reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1957 (where they lost to Manchester United’s Busby Babes) and then beating United in the Cup in 1984 under the management of Harry Redknapp (who still locally in Sandbanks).
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Howe. “The club was on its knees seven years ago. We had nothing. Every day the bailiffs were coming in and more people were being made redundant. But a group of fans put their hands in their pockets to keep the club alive – and now they are reaping the rewards.”
Chairman Jeff Mostyn, one of those fans, said: “If we had gone out of the fourth division we would have died. To survive was a miracle. The Premier League was a fantasy. You had more chance of playing it on one of the computer games.”