Bournemouth ‘Who are You?’: from a podgy Best to Howe the genius

Jake: 'here's hoping the southern sea air suits the lads'
Jake: ‘here’s hoping the southern sea air suits the lads’

Steve Menary* is a Bournemouth supporter who also writes about the game – among other things – for a living. He is cautiously optimistic that the club’s first Premier League season will not be the last. But he feels both teams may have to settle for a draw on Saturday …

Salut! Sunderland: What a season you had. There aren’t many of you but it must have felt like an impossible dream coming true for all Bournemouth fans, and with some good football being played. Does your respectable start – well, more respectable than ours – give you hope of Premier survival or is it still a tall order?

Steve Menary: Most fans expect us to stay up. Deluded maybe, but we’ve started this season as we finished the last one in terms of how we’ve approached games so hopefully we’ll be OK.

Explain how it works: small club and stadium, but presumably some of the players will be on decent Premier wages and you’ve had to buy.

The club have the backing of Russian financier Max Demin, but have never paid crazy wages. The Daily Mirror said Sylvain Distin was £40k a week, but manager Eddie Howe said this was nonsense.

The revival started before Demin, after you were on the brink of slipping out of the Football league in 2009 but how do you rate his input so far and how committed do you feel he is to the club?

Demin appears very committed. He’s trying to get the club on an even keel, so prices have gone up & he’s made some savings since buying out Eddie Mitchell’s half share but a season ticket for a kid & an adult still averages out at less than £22 a game. Hard to disagree with that!

Your assessment of Eddie Howe. Were you surprised another Premier club, us maybe, didn’t snatch him?

Eddie Howe is Bournemouth’s greatest ever manager. I think if we stay up other PL clubs might come looking for him, but this is his home town club and he is a legend.

In which positions do you feel your squad is strong enough for the long season ahead and where do weaknesses remain?

It will be interesting to see how Glenn Murray fares, as Callum Wilson needs better support. Not that after four goals in four games anyone is complaining about his contribution. And a potentially long-term injury to Max Gradel is a massive blow. Marc Pugh will be a good deputy, but if he gets injured we will be exposed on the left of midfield.

In your ESPN FC review of the transfer window you lauded the return of Gradel and suggested there was no love lost between the fans and Stéphane Zubar. What has Max got right and Stephan so wrong?

Gradel did very well on his previous spell and chose Bournemouth above offers from other teams. Zebra was initially popular but his agent negotiated a clause in his contract that stipulated an extension if we got into the PL. He hasn’t played for ages and is unlikely to, but is an embarrassing drain on the wage bill.

Steve Menary: remembers a brief Bournemouth spell for a podgy but still gifted George Best
Steve Menary: remembers a brief Bournemouth spell for a podgy but still gifted George Best

Describe the atmosphere at Dean Court and have a guess at how many Cherries fans will make the long trip to Sunderland later in the season (late Jan)

The atmosphere has been great so far. The Stadium of Light is a long trip, but will be a great place to go. More than 1,000 at a guess.

What have been your personal highs and lows following Bournemouth?

In 40 years, far too many lows to mention. Right now is the greatest high, but to put that into context until recently it was the 1998 AutoWindscreens Trophy final. We deservedly lost to Grimsby but that was our first (and so far only) trip to Wembley.

Who are the best you’ve seen in your colours – and who, Zubar apart, should have been allowed nowhere near them?

Watching George Best play in the early 1980s was incredible. He was unfit and overweight, but still had amazing skill (Editor’s note: five games in 1983, between stints with even fewer appearance at Sea Bee and Hong Kong Rangers beforehand and Brisbane Lions, Osborne Park Gale, Nuneaton Borough and Tobermore United afterwards). Given the amount of time Bournemouth have spent scuffling around the lower leagues, we’ve had a few woeful players and Roger Boli was one. After seven games in 1998/99, he quit. I wasn’t surprised.

What impressions do you have of Sunderland – the club, the fans, city and region, Dick Advocaat?

Sunderland don’t seem top have started too well, but Advocaat is an experienced manager. I’ve only been to Sunderland once before and that was a long time ago, so am looking forward to January as Sunderland have great fans.

Is there a single player we have that you’d welcome at Bournemouth?

Jermain Defoe was brilliant at Bournemouth, as he demonstrated by scoring in 13 successive games in 2000/01.

Top four this season in order?

Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool

Are are we going down – don’t feel you have to spare our feelings?

Sunderland haven’t started well. I’ve a good friend who is a Sunderland fan, so am really hoping that they improve. I’d say Bournemouth will finish 16th. I’m hoping Sunderland will be 17th – at least!

Salut! Sunderland has been banging on about diving and other forms of cheating for years. But is it time to give up, accept that cheating instruction probably happens at every training ground and stop whingeing?

No, never encourage cheating at any level. I watch kids feigning injury in my son’s games and its embarrassing.

Will you be at our game? What will be the score?

I plan to be. 1-1 would be good in the pub after.

Jake: check out this season's Who are You? series at
Jake: check out this season’s Who are You? series at
* Steve Menary on himself: I’m a freelance journalist and write about football and business for magazines including World Soccer and for ESPN FC. I have been watching Bournemouth since the mid-1970s. Plenty of lows, now is the high.

Interview: Colin Randall

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