When AFC Bournemouth completed their long march to the top flight of British football in 2015, even the most idealistic of sentimentalists felt deep down that they would at best be a yoyo team, and the Premiership experience would be a fleeting one. Yet they concluded their first season two places clear of the relegation zone and confounded all expectations by securing a top half finish in 2016/17.
When they signed Nathan Ake from Chelsea for £20 million earlier this year, it sent out a sign that The Cherries had the wallet as well as the will to compete with the big boys. Yet now, although we are only a quarter of the way through the season, the doom mongers are at it again, and suggesting that AFC will be down and out by the end of the season.
A look at the bookmakers’ odds
For an unbiased view, there is no better place to turn than the wide range of sport betting sites, which are keen to offer odds on anything and everything, from match scores to promotion and relegation hopes to which manager will be next to jump, or be pushed, from his perch.
There is no denying that Bournemouth had a fairly disastrous start, losing their first four Premiership matches of the season. Yet despite their currently precarious position in the danger zone of the Premiership table, the bookies have Bournemouth odds on to stay up, at 1/3. Most are offering around 5/2 on relegation if you side with the naysayers.
Can they repeat last year’s heroics and finish in the top half? There is certainly time aplenty, and they are only five points adrift of 10th placed Southampton, so the optimists might be tempted by the 8/1 odds being offered by some betting sites.
Who’s up next?
Ake will get the perfect opportunity to prove a point to his former employers when his team welcomes Chelsea next Saturday. Clearly, the visitors will be odds-on favourites, but the 5/1 being offered on a Bournemouth win will almost certainly attract some takers.
After all, The Cherries proved in their high-profile visit to Wembley earlier this month that they are not afraid of the top teams, and it was a case of so close and yet so far when Jermain Defoe almost levelled things against his former club. The fact that they followed this up with a workmanlike win over Stoke last week suggests that morale is high, and the home support will act as a 12th man. Chelsea should take nothing for granted.
Bournemouth’s prospects will receive a huge boost with the long-awaited return of striker Callum Wilson. He has been missing since February after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury during training, and with this and other injuries, it is easy to forget what an important role he has played in keeping Bournemouth in the top flight over the past two years.
His return this week cannot come soon enough, and Cherries fans can only hope that he can stay fit for the remainder of the season. It could make all the difference between elation and deflation when May comes around.