AFC Bournemouth has been in existence since 1899 and has always plied its trade in the lower echelons of the English football pyramid. The Cherries’ red and black striped shirts imitate that of famous Italian side AC Milan but unfortunately the club has struggled to follow suit in terms of success. In recent years, off the field events have taken precedence as financial strife has resulted in selling players to try and keep the club afloat.
The Dorset coast side can trace their roots back as far as 1890, when Boscombe St. Johns Institute FC were playing in local football. The side, made out of voluntary first-aiders, disbanded in 1899 and became Boscombe FC. They played in the Bournemouth & District Junior League and were proving to be the top dogs in town.
Local success saw the side join the Hampshire League and, in 1910, the club were given some wasteland opposite their Kings Road home. This land was soon transformed into Dean Court, named after the benefactor Mr Cooper-Dean, and remains their home to this day. The team’s nickname – the Cherries – also originates from this time. Some say it derives from the side’s cherry striped shirts but others believe that it comes from the cherry orchards that Cooper-Dean had on it. The club’s progression was halted by war but, in 1923, they had their application accepted to join the Third Division (South).
Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic
Under the name Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic, the side struggled originally in the football league but eventually established themselves as a strong third division outfit. As war once again took hold, the club had to wait until it had finished to collect their first piece of silverware – a victory over Walsall earning the club the Third Division (South) Cup.
Bournemouth has long suffered in the league and, even to this day, some of the fans’ fondest memories have been reserved for the FA Cup. In 1957, the side hit the headlines as they started a great run that saw them reach the sixth round. After beating Accrington Stanley and Burton Albion, the Cherries went on to win 1-0 away at Wolverhampton Wanderers, then in the top flight. This astonishing victory was followed up by a superb 3-1 home win against Tottenham. The club was awarded the ‘Giant Killers Cup’ for their amazing run but it was cut short in the sixth round by Manchester United, who won 2-1 in front of a record crowd of 28,799 at Dean Court.
Becoming AFC Bournemouth
The cup success raised the hopes of fans but unfortunately the football did not follow suit. In 1970, the Cherries were relegated to Division Four but then, under manager John Bond, the side flourished. They won promotion back up and changed their name to what we now know as AFC Bournemouth. A third place finish in Division Three meant the side narrowly missed out on promotion but it also resulted in the exit of the likes of striker Ted MacDougall and manager Bond. The change in personnel ended an exciting era, as not only did the crowds and money drop, as did the side. Relegation in 1975 resulted in several depressing years in Division Four before the side were steered to promotion in 1982.
As the club looked as if they were to return to the dark old days of Division Four a young manager with an eye for a bargain turned the club around – Harry Redknapp. In his first major coaching role, Redknapp transformed the south coast side from a relegation battler into a thrilling football outfit.
The Cherries won the Associate Members Cup and Third Division en route to the second tier of English football for the first time in their history. In the second division, his side finished 12th in 1988/89 which, to this day, is a club record highest position. Despite this, Bournemouth struggled at this level and a poor run towards the end of the following season resulted in relegation on the final day. The Cherries failed to make the playoffs in the following two seasons and Redknapp decided to retire from football – only to later return later as manager of West Ham United and currently Portsmouth.
Under Redknapp’s reign, one particular triumph holds a special place in Cherries fans hearts. Redknapp oversaw arguably the biggest win in the club’s history as the third from bottom Cherries knocked out cup holders Manchester United. In front of a record attendance at Dean Court, the home side would go on to beat their more illustrious opponents and help secure Harry Redknapp in the hot seat.
Over the nineties the Cherries established themselves as a strong Division Two outfit, coming close to promotion on several occasions. Unfortunately the financial situation at the club was rather precarious and, at one point, the club was just 15 minutes from being closed down. However, the Bournemouth supporters rallied together to create a trust fund and during the 1997-98 season Europe’s first ever Community club was formed. During that season Mel Machin lead the Cherries to Wembley where 34,000 fans saw Bournemouth come close to winning the Auto Windscreens Shield.
In 2000 record appearance holder Sean O’Driscoll took over as manager and, in his first season, transformed the side. The Cherries were whiskers away from the playoffs as a late Reading equalizer ended the club’s dreams of promotion to Division One. That season Bournemouth also found themselves on the back pages of the newspapers as a young player grabbed the headlines. Jermaine Defoe, on-loan from West Ham, scored in nine consecutive games to set a post war record and fired himself to national recognition.
In the November of the 2001-02 season, the Cherries moved into the Fitness First Stadium at Dean Court, having ground shared at Dorchester for the latter end of the previous season. Built on the original site, the new ground created much excitement but the side could not live up to the hype and were relegated at the end of the season. The Cherries bounced straight back the following season with a fantastic 5-2 win against Lincoln City in the playoff final at the Millennium Stadium. O’Driscoll’s side impressed in the following seasons but, in later 2006 and after 22-years of service, O’Driscoll left to take the managerial post at Doncaster Rovers.
New Era (2007-08)
O’Driscoll exit resulted in a new era at the club. Kevin Bond, a former player and son of John (the manager in the early 1970s) took the reigns and in his first season pulled the side away from relegation. However, since Bond took over, the side have struggled on and off the field. Bond has not only had to fight on the pitch but off it, as the fraught financial situation has meant that he has had to use the transfer market sensibly. The side is a mix of youth and experience, with the likes of former England international Darren Anderton and Paul Telfer – who was playing for Celtic in the San Siro a few months earlier – leading the side.
A major issue at the club though is its finances. The precarious financial situation has been an issue throughout the years but it may mean now the club go into administration and incur a ten-point penalty. This has not been ruled out by chairman Jeff Mostyn and could seriously jeopardise the future of the club.
- Division Three (now League One) – Winners (1986/87)
- Division Four (now League Two) – Runners-up (1970-71)
- Division Three (South) – Runners-up (1947/48)
- Associate Members Cup – Winners (1984)
- Auto Windscreens Shield – Runners-up (1998)
- Record League Appearances – Sean O’Driscoll (423, 1984-1995)
- Record Goalscorer – Ray Eyre (202, 1924-1933)
- Record Attendance – 28,799 (v Manchester United, FA Cup 6th Round, 2 March 1957)
- Record League Victory – 7-0 (v Swindon Town, Division 3 (South), 22 September 1956)
- Record Defeat – 0-9 (v Lincoln City, Division 3, 18 December 1982)
- Record Cup Victory – 11-0 (v Margate, FA Cup 1st Round, 20 November 1971)
- Record Fee Paid – £210,000 (to Gillingham for Gavin Peacock, Aug 89)
- Record Fee Received – £800,000 (from Everton for Joe Parkinson, March 1994)
- Record League Goalscorer in a season – Ted McDougall (42, 1970-71)