Monsieur Salut writes: by the time we’d counted to three the Bournemouth fans we might approach for this week’s Who are You?, and then added ones we interviewed last season, we probably had the entire home support covered.
But what the Cherries lack in numbers, their team makes up for with football that sometimes ‘sparkles’ and produces results, according to Tom Latchem*, presenter of talkSPORT’s Extra Time, our man in the hot seat. Tom describes himself at Twitter as a ‘journo, republican, electoral reformist and old school raver’ and sounds a bloke you’d enjoy a pint with. A long read that I thoroughly enjoyed …
Salut! Sunderland: We have been delighted to welcome Moose, Mickey Quinn and one of your former colleagues Melissa Rudd in this feature. You must be chuffed to bits after a bright Bournemouth start to the season. What has gone right?
Tom Latchem: Pundits have been lavishing praise on Southampton for their start to the season yet little old AFC Bournemouth are just a point and a place behind them. And if we had converted even half of the 11 times we have hit the woodwork so far this season, we would be several places higher. How did that happen, eh?
Well, it’s really a continuation of our upward trajectory over the past few years. Serious professional gamblers were predicting a top-half finish for Bournemouth last term and if we hadn’t had such terrible injuries to key players – particularly to star striker Callum Wilson who had scored five goals in his first six Premier League matches by the time he was put out for the season with ruptured anterior cruciate ligament against Stoke in September – then I think we probably would have done.
This summer our manager Eddie Howe added further exciting forward options to a squad that is now a year more experienced at this level, plus Wilson is back and firing again, and at the moment it seems to be paying off as we are playing some exciting and effective attacking football.
I felt we needed another creative, combative central midfielder and bringing in Jack Wilshere has given the midfield some bite and class – albeit his signing was fortuitous in its timing, given he decided to leave Arsenal a couple of days before the transfer window shut, meaning that while Howe can take credit for sealing the deal, he cannot be praised for forward-planning in that area.
Last season only dismal Aston Villa conceded more goals than us and my constant fear since getting promoted has been Howe’s decision not to recruit at least one specialised centre-back, as Simon Francis is a converted right-back and Steve Cook, although youngish and improving, always has a mistake in him. It was looking like that had backfired as we looked wobbly in some of our early games, but we have been pretty tight at the back recently, particularly since signing Wilshere…except against Boro last Saturday of course!
And, let’s face it, Howe continues to get it right year after year. So while nobody is beyond criticism, he’s doing pretty (incredibly) well, so I don’t think he needs to take any lessons in football management from me!
We always find Hull hard to beat. You waltzed past them and then drew commendably with Spurs. It must be good to watch the Cherries just now (especially with a game against us coming up to ease the pain of defeat at Boro) …
We are a decent side, and when we are on form play some sparkling football. That Hull thrashing had been coming, too, we just needed to be more clinical, and Spurs was an amazing team performance from start to finish where everyone did their job. Yet even in the lower leagues Bournemouth had a reputation for playing attractive, passing football – a few notable exceptions (stand up Tony Pulis, Jimmy Quinn and Paul Groves) aside – and so it’s great that Howe is continuing in that vein. When he leaves, as he inevitably will at some point and deservedly so, the hope would be that we find a replacement in that mould. Though, as Premier League club after club have shown, that’s not easy!
Were you insulted or amused by that Lord Sugar tweet saying Spurs hadn’t a hope of the title if they couldn’t beat the likes of AFCB?
Man who knows nothing about football says something ill-informed about football. I’ve not stopped crying since(!).
Whatever Sugar likes to think, the reason Spurs probably won’t win the title is because they don’t score enough goals, not because they can’t beat teams like Bournemouth (although I should point out champions Leicester didn’t beat us last season, either). I thought we were excellent from start to finish against Spurs and they never looked like winning. In actual fact, they were lucky to walk away with a
point given they should have had 10 men for 50 minutes and nine men for the final 10.
Are you happy with the size of the club/stadium or does long term stability require upgrades?
Absolutely not. We can only get around 11,000 fans through the gate, and tickets are virtually impossible to get unless you’re a season ticket holder or have been to a ridiculous number of home games in previous season, meaning we are locking out a generation of kids who are the future lifeblood of our club and are desperate to come and watch Premier League football. Kids around town are wearing Cherries shirts, rather than those of United, Chelsea or even Saints, yet they cannot come and watch us play. This is a real worry.
An 18,000 capacity would be just fine – whether that is with us expanding the stadium or moving altogether. The problem with expanding is we don’t own the ground as we sold it to stave off debts in the dark old days back in 2005, and the owners have no need to sell it back to us. So developing a stadium we don’t own – like doing up a rented home – does not exactly make great business sense. But then again moving to a new stadium will cost hundreds of millions of pounds
– and do our owners have the money to do so? I rather suspect not.
There has been talk of expanding the stadium, but not for many months and the silence from the club on this has been shameful. The chairman, Jeff Mostyn, promised we would look at it again in January if we stayed up, which we did. Then there was a consultation in March about increasing the capacity to 14,000 by installing a permanent south stand (it is currently temporary) and filling in the corners. And since then? Nada. The bloke seems to be on TV and radio virtually every other day telling anyone who will listen just how wonderful everything is. But it isn’t, and fans are becoming increasingly frustrated.
Added to that, our off-field operation in terms of ticketing, marketing, and communications, has been a shambles. For example, it wasn’t even possible to buy tickets online at the start of the season.
We are basically a Premier League club on the pitch but still a League One club off it. Our rise has been so rapid that the powers-that-be haven’t been able to keep up. Our chief exec is a former copper who happened to be the son-in-law of former owner Eddie Mitchell. Now, he may be a great bloke, and an adequate lower league football club chief executive, but is he the best person available to run and grow a major international sports company? I am told off field operations are improving but fear it may be too little too late as many fans have grown tired of the poor organisation, and some have even drifted away.
In terms of expanding the stadium, our situation is quite unique in that the increased revenue of an extra 3,000 or even 10,000 through the door is almost a drop in the ocean compared to how much money the club gets merely from being in the Premier League, and expanding the capacity would be expensive and the revenue increase negligible. As we all know, it’s the corporate ticket sales that really boost revenue, not us mere plebs. Ultimately the owners are businessmen who, let’s face it, may well not care about increasing the local fanbase for the future. When we go down – as I am sure we one day will – they will quite possibly decide they no longer want to be investors, leaving us back in the lower leagues without having increased our fanbase and core support, as our local rivals Reading were able to when they reached the Premier League. The danger then is we will go bankrupt and fold. But hey ho, it’s all the fun of the fair, buy now and pay later, etc…
Your best moments as a Bournemouth supporter?
Oooh, there are loads of best moments – that’s a toughie. In the Premier League obviously deservedly beating Manchester United at home and Chelsea away last season – although I actually though the performance against Spurs recently was the best I have ever seen us play, given the quality of opposition – but my greatest memories came when we were a piddly lower league side and the joys seemed somehow greater and more uncommon. Like beating Peterborough 5-4 away in 1996.
Or seeing us walk out at Wembley for the first time in 1998. Watching Jermain Defoe score for a 10th game in a row back in 2001 was a joy, as was witnessing Jamie Hayter score the fastest hat-trick in the history of British football against Wrexham in 2004. Beating Birmingham 8-0 away on my birthday two years ago. Battering Lincoln 5-2 in the 2003 League Two play-off final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium (I cried). Winning promotion from League One to the Championship – in what was then my ultimate dream for the club (I cried then, too). And of course swashbuckling our way to the Championship title and becoming a top flight side for the first time in our history (yep, you guessed it, I cried again…and drunkenly asked my girlfriend to marry me. She told me to get up and stop being stupid.)
And the worst? Probably the constant fear of going out of business as the club lived hand-to-mouth through the mid-90s until 2011 when our current owner Maxim Demin invested in the club. The fear is still there at the back of the minds of Cherries fans who lived through those girm 15 or so years, but we try not to think too much about that!
Assess the value to your team of Harry Arter and Jack Wilshere
Harry Arter is our heartbeat. With him we are a thrusting, dynamic, snappy unit in both attack and defence. Without him, we struggle to take control of games. I was mocked by some Cherries-supporting friends last year when I said he was our most important player and would one day play for a top four side. They’re not mocking me for that prediction now, because if he can stay free of the injuries which have plagued his career, it will happen, without a doubt.
Jack Wilshere is still finding his fitness, but it’s not a coincidence that since he came our performances have improved, and Arter has really started to shine. He does the simple things well. He strikes fear into other teams, who mark him tightly, opening up space for our other players, like Arter and winger Jordan Ibe, recruited over summer from Liverpool for £15million, who likes to come inside. And he adds a creative spark in the number 10 role because he has the temerity to try outlandish things. He and Arter complement each other brilliantly and will only improve.
The best players you have seen in Bournemouth colours?
Luther Blissett. Ian Bishop. Your very own Jermain Defoe, in terms of how good he was at such a young age, and someone I would love to have on our books right now. Jack Wilshere in terms of his quality at the very top level. And Harry Arter – particularly for the way he dealt with the traumatic experience of losing a baby just days before helping topple Man United with a man-of-the-match performance – is my current football hero (is that okay for a 34-year-old?), who certainly makes my Irish heritage come to the fore. And, like Arter, you can’t beat a nasty but classy little toothless terrier like John Bailey back in the mid-90s. (Who, I hear you ask?)
Can you think of any who shouldn’t have been allowed inside Dean Court?
There have been plenty – way too many to name. But, hey, beggars can’t be choosers, and until about 2011, we definitely were beggars.
Sunderland: has our luck finally run out?
I’m sorry to say, but it looks like it has, yes. You were lucky to stay up last year and there’s been nowhere near enough investment from the board to improve the situation, so you can’t say you haven’t seen it coming. Your one saving grace is there is a lot of dross in the Premier League this season. But even that won’t be enough to help you, I fear.
Any other thoughts on the club, fans, city and region, David Moyes?
With such a huge, passionate fanbase, you deserve better than the clowns running your club. David Moyes is clearly a decent manager with a strong track record. But under the current regime there, not even Jesus could make a success of Sunderland.
This season’s top four and bottom three?
The top four is really hard to predict, because everyone is capable of good and bad spells making it really exciting. But my guess would be – in no particular order – Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal. I’d like Spurs to finally do it, as I grew up in north London, and have a (very small) soft spot for them, but I think their lack of goals, particularly away from home, will be what prevents that
As for the bottom three – again in no order – Hull as they don’t have the squad to stay up, you lot (again, sorry!), and I think Swansea’s time in the Premier League may well run out this year, too.
And where our two clubs will finish if not listed in the previous answer (I am sure we already are)?
Ha, you said it. If we can stay clear of injuries we should finish midtable and with a bit of good fortune, in the top half. But with so many teams taking points off each other you just don’t know. I’ll be happy to just stay up, which I feel pretty confident will happen.
Diving: a dead issue because so many players do it, and so many managers encourage them, or still worth fighting?
It’s never worth giving up on fighting or preventing foul play. Saying that, I caused a bit of a stink with the listeners on my talkSPORT show by saying I wasn’t bothered if Bournemouth won through our players diving, so I may be the wrong person to ask. All I would ask is that referees do their job and penalise any foul play that they see. Too many referees bottle big decisions, particularly in favour of the top clubs. That’s partly the media’s fault, as every decision in matches involving the bigger clubs is dissected to the nth-degree, but the refs should grow some balls. Humans make mistakes, but to bottle decisions because they feel they will be criticised for getting it wrong is unacceptable. It’s not a popularity contest.
Best ref, worst ref?
Worst refs is easy: most of them. Particularly disappointed with Craig Pawson for failing to send off Eric Lamela and Moussa Sissoko – despite having a clear view of both incidents – in our game against Spurs the other week, but thatls just the latest example of a bad referee. Mark Clattenburg, who seems to want to be pals with all the players and is more likely to want to hug the big-name superstars than send them off, is endlessly smug and irritating. Best refs: The ones you don’t really notice.
One step football should take to improve the lot of ordinary fans?
Reduce ticket prices. It’s simple, but they won’t. Unfortunately that’s capitalism, innit?
Will you be at our match and what will be the score?
Nope, I will be in the United States for the US Election, and possibly witnessing the end of the world as we know it if Donald Trump is inexplicably elected as “Leader of the Free World”. Though if we lose to you lot at home, I’m not sure which I will find more depressing! I’ll go for a 2-0 win to us, like last season. Meaning we will probably get humped and have several players injured for the season.
*Tom Latchem on himself: I’m a journalist and broadcaster who spent a decade working in national newspapers before making the move into radio presenting, where I currently host Extra Time, the popular overnight show which is simulcast on talkSPORT and talkRADIO, between 1am and 6am every Saturday morning – although not for the next few weeks as I’m on my holidays!Before moving into radio, I was one of the youngest ever TV editors of the News Of The World at the age of just 28, and remain a regular contributor to the country’s biggest newspapers writing on a range of topics from the media to sport, including a weekly soap column for Daily Mail Weekend magazine, opinion pieces for The Sun and The Guardian, and features for the Mail on Sunday. I’ve previously been a guest opinion and TV columnist for the People, a regular TV critic for The Spectator and a contributor to Loaded Magazine.
I have supported Bournemouth for more than 30 years, despite having never lived there, ‘thanks’ to my dad and granddad who are both devoted Cherries fans. I am a season-ticket holder (meaning I am one of the lucky 11,000 who can actually go and watch them at home!) and the owner of one of the worst AFC Bournemouth tattoos ever inked onto a human being…ah, the folly of youth!
Interview: Colin Randall