AFC Bournemouth v Crewe Alexandra
Dean Court / League One / 26th January 2013
Harry (Hugo) will probably make his second appearance on Lost Boyos in the new year as I’d arranged to tick Bournemouth’s Dean Court off my “Doing the 92″ list with Harry being my guide to his hometown. (Taken from Lost in…Southampton)
And here we are. We are now well into 2013 and it was indeed time to travel to the south coast to visit the seaside town of Bournemouth (I had to check if it was a town or a city; apparently it is a town and was rejected ‘city’ status in 2012). After watching Southampton v Swansea at St. Marys, in the post match pub discussion Harry had raised the idea of me visiting his hometown (he actually supports Liverpool though) and Dean Court in the near future. He had even kindly offered me a place to crash if I was to make the long trip south – I accepted the offer.
Once again, weather threatened to curtail my plans, as heavy snow hit Manchester on the eve of my trip to Dorset. Fortunately, all was turning to slush by the time I began my 30 minute walk to Manchester Piccadilly station at 6am the next morning and my train was confirmed to be running on time. Before the clock had even struck 7am, I was shooting down the country towards the south coast (via London).
However, another spanner was thrown into works of my Lost Boyo adventure when Harry, who was at his Dad’s home in Bath, informed me that his car was having major gear issues, potentially leaving him stranded in the West Country and two hours away from Bournemouth. Nightmare. This could have become a major problem as Harry was picking me up from Christchurch station on my arrival in Dorset and he also had the tickets for the game. So, well done to Kev from the RAC who got Harry’s Skoda up and running again on the Saturday morning and subsequently made my day a hell of a lot easier.
On my arrival in London, my 5 layers of clothing were now wholly unnecessary, as whilst Manchester was caked in snow and freezing temperatures, London had clear blue skies and relatively warm weather. After a frenzied dash from London Euston to London Waterloo to catch the 10.05am train to Bournemouth, I found myself dripping in sweat from running through the train stations of London in my now excessive layers of clothing (a tactical removal of some clothing was deployed once the train to Bournemouth was moving). By 11:50 I was arriving into the town of Christchurch, where I was greeted by Harry and a fully functioning Skoda.
By midday we were at the Hugo household, so I could drop off my bag and so Harry could make me a bacon baguette – he even warmed up the bread. Top service.
I’d been informed that the ground was not really in the town of Bournemouth itself, but instead situated in the Boscombe area just outside the town. Boscombe was only a short drive away from Harry’s house, so after enjoying my excellent bacon baguette (compliments to the chef) Harry’s mate Matt arrived to kindly give us a lift to a pub near Dean Court.
One criticism I had repeatedly heard directed at Dean Court was the fact that the ground had little in way of pubs around it. Our first stop was to be the Queens Park pub, which, admittedly, looked quite shady from the outside, but all was fine on entering. The pub had looked like it had had some recent renovations and it was generally a very tidy looking place. The owners had clearly opted for the ‘less tables and chairs, the more people we can fit in ‘ strategy; this approach was not needed during our short stint in the pub with the pub frequented by a small gathering of Bournemouth fans (although it was slowly filling up). There was the usual offering of local ales and the usual selection of lagers, but unfortunately the drinks arrived in plastic glasses – actually, two plastic glasses, as every pint we had came in a glass inside another glass for some strange reason.
Whilst Harry went outside to make a phone call, I began chatting to some Bournemouth fans about the upcoming game, the ground and my whole groundhopping escapades for this blog. When Harry arrived back in, I could see him laughing to himself – Harry has told me before that whenever he reads one of these ‘Lost in…’pieces, he finds it humorous how I seemingly strike up random conversations and friendships with complete strangers; I knew this was why he was chuckling as he rejoined me with my new pals. “I only left you for a minute and you’ve already started!” he exclaimed on returning. Our new Bournemouth friends informed us that if we wanted to visit another pub, we’d have a bit of a trek ahead of us, so we opted to go straight to the club bar at the stadium itself. The stadium was less than a 10 minute walk away and after being led there via the scenic route through a pleasant park behind the ground, we arrived at Dean Court.
From the outside, the ground looked very modern, but it did at least have a bit of character and was not just a standard, new ‘identi-stadium’ that you see around the country these days. Bournemouth have played at Dean Court since it’s opening in 1910 with the former guise of AFC Bournemouth, Boscombe FC, originally playing at nearby Pokesdown. In 1910, J.E. Cooper-Dean, the club president during the early part of the 20th century, was to be the man who would lease out the wasteland next to Kings Park and his own Cooper-Dean estate to become the club’s new ground. The name Dean Court is taken from the Cooper-Dean family who granted the club permission to play there. Some argue that Bournemouth’s nickname of the Cherries actually derives from the ground being situated next to the cherry orchard on the Cooper-Dean estate, although others argue it is merely due to the cherry red colour of the club’s shirts.
The name of ground has become a strange subject in recent times; you may have noticed that I have only referred to the stadium as Dean Court (as most football fans know it) throughout this piece so far, but on my arrival at the ground, the words ‘Goldsands Stadium’ was emblazoned all across it with the familiar ‘business buys naming rights for football stadium’ coming into play at AFC Bournemouth. In fact, the name has changed several times over the past few years with the ground becoming the Fitness First Stadium and then the Seward Stadium in recent times. It was only when the motor group Seward went into administration in February 2012 that the naming rights went up for sale again and were eventually claimed by Goldsands, a fledging management company, in a two-year naming rights deal.
The ground itself has changed dramatically over the past decade with the ground being completely rebuilt in 2001 and even rotated 90 degrees (a process I still cannot get my head around). The ground now only has 3 stands with the south side of the stadium being completely open, although apparently a temporary seating stand has been used in the past to fill this void.
As we made our way to the 1910 Supporters Bar, which was located in an upstairs section of the Main Stand, we walked past something I’ve never seen signposted so proudly at a football ground before; towering above me in big letters on the opposite side of the stand housing the club bar were the words ‘Bubbles – Champagne Lounge’ – I reminded myself I was in the south of England and this sort of flamboyance was to be expected.
There was a small queue outside the club bar, but we were soon in. As expected, the room was very spacious with a couple of large, circular tables thrown together in the middle of the room and there we replenty of fans already enjoying a prematch pint. There were also some TVs scattered about the walls along with a large screen in the middle of the room (I felt the two large images of Champions League footballs either side of the big screen was a tad optimistic for a League One club though) showing Sky Sports News – always a good thing. The biggest surprise with the club bar came when I went to the bar itself. I was warned by the fans we met earlier that service in the club bar can be very slow, but considering the amount of people at the bar, service was rather hasty. However, the biggest shock came when I purchased our drinks and discovered that they cost well below the standard £3 a pint mark. Top stuff.
Kick off time was now looming, so we began to make our way around to the opposite side of the stadium where we would be sitting for today’s League One fixture. I particularly liked the club’s ‘Wall of Fame’ which ran down the one side of the stadium with large images of some of the most famous faces to adorn the red and black of Bournemouth: I could only pick out Harry Redknapp and Jermain Defoe, but I’m sure the others gracing the red brick wall were equally legendary to the club.
On walking through the turnstiles, we found ourselves on a fairly standard looking concourse, although there was plenty of space to house the fans enjoying their drinks bought at the food/drink outlet. As per usual, en route to Bournemouth I had decided to follow AFC Bournemouth’s official Twitter account (@afcbournemouth) with the first tweet I saw being the club plugging their attempt to win an award for their ‘home-baked pies’. The word ‘home-baked’ immediately filled me with hope that the club’s pie effort was going to be a good one and my choice of steak and ale pie didn’t disappoint. It didn’t quite enter the pantheon of pie greats such as Morecambe, Norwich or Llanelli, but it was an excellent effort – a pleasant surprise from my trip to Dean Court, especially after Harry had told me that the club used bog-standard Pukka Pies (it turned out they had switched to a more adventurous ‘home-baked’ pie option since he had last had a pie at the ground). Also, for £5 I could buy a pie and pint combo – good value all round. Speaking of value, thanks to a club offer that day, I had only paid £10 for my matchday ticket – another bargain for League One football. I was becoming more and more surprised by every pound I was saving.
We made our way to our seats on the far side of the East Stand; opposite us was the club’s Main Stand, where we had enjoyed our drinks before the game and where the changing rooms and dugouts are located (also not forgetting ‘Bubbles’ the champagne lounge) and to our right stood the North Stand AKA the Steve Fletcher Stand. I found the naming of this stand particularly novel, as club legend Steve Fletcher still actually plays for Bournemouth – you don’t see that very often (surely he’s the only player in the Football League to play in front of a stand named after him? If this is fact, let me know!) It was in the North Stand that the most vocal of Bournemouth’s fans stood.
Harry had warned me of the awful football entrance music and soon enough an out-of-place “Earthquake” by Labyrinth was sending the teams out onto the pitch. The teams entered the field from the opposite stand with Bournemouth in their AC Milan-esque red and black stripes and Crewe in a brand new, specially made, white third kit to avoid a colour clash with the home team.
The game kicked off and the opening exchanges were particularly tentative, although both teams were clearly demonstrating their intent to play slow, passing football, a feature that was recurrent for the duration of the game. In the 8th minute, the tricky Marc Pugh ran towards the Crewe penalty box and was clearly upended by Adam Dugdale. Penalty to Bournemouth. With the intimidating lack of stand behind the goal, Brett Pitman stepped up to confidently bury the ball past Steve Phillips. 1-0 to Bournemouth.
Bournemouth could have had another spot kick shortly after as Pugh once again tricked his way past the defence before being brought down again, only for the ref to keep his whistle away from his lips on this occasion.
Bournemouth’s goal did not shake Crewe too much and for the majority of the first half the club famed for their youth academy began to play some excellent football around the Bournemouth team. Harry and I had already picked out our two standout players in the Crewe team: the number 8, Max Clayton and the number 11, Byron Moore. Clayton had shown a deftly touch throughout the first half with many of Crewe’s passing moves starting with him, whilst Moore was reaping absolutely havoc with his trickery down the right wing. There was very little in respect of real clear chances, but the first half was an exciting affair with some good football on show.
Half time was to prove a historic moment in Lost Boyos history. The half-time announcer had begun to ask the crowd to tweet him ‘shoutouts’ to be read out at half-time. A Bournemouth fan, David Lambert (@dlambert40), who had been following my journey to Dean Court on Twitter, had already tweeted the announcer asking for a Lost Boyos shoutout, so Harry decided to follow suit and tweeted @bottomike to also request a half-time shoutout. Then it happened: Lost Boyos (and @mophead_88) got a shoutout in a Football League ground. The blog has officially made it to the big time!
Bournemouth came out and started the second half much better compared to how they had finished the first half. Pitman had a chance to score, but smashed over from close range, just before a header of his from a Simon Francis cross landed comfortably in the gloves of Phillips.
Bournemouth would eventually grab their second goal in the 67th minute. A shot from Harry Arter was saved by Phillips with the ball rebounding to the feet of inexperienced left back Jonny Guthrie; he was duly robbed of possession by Josh McQuiod, who rolled the ball across the 6 yard box to give Pitman an empty net to smash into. Bournemouth now looked comfortable and looked like they would extend their lead further.
However, Matias Pogba, formerly of Wrexham and brother of Juventus and ex-Manchester Unted midfielder Paul Pogba, went on a powerful run past the Cherries’ defence with his shot hitting the post, but eventually being converted by substitute Ryan Colclough for his first ever career goal. It looked like game on.
Then Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe introduced Wes Fogden. “He always scores when I see Bournemouth play” exclaimed Harry and although he didn’t score, he was fouled in the box by Abdul Osman to give Bournemouth their second penalty of the day and Pitman his opportunity to take home the match ball. Strangely, since I’ve started writing about my groundhopping exploits for this blog, I’ve not seen a hatrick scored live, but Pitman had the chance to create Lost Boyos history and to join my exclusive ‘Harrison Hatrick Club’ (members: Andy Morrell, Robert Earnshaw, Guillem Bauza, Scott Sinclair and Yakubu). Pitman kept his nerve to bury his 3rd of the game and to make the score 3-1 to Bournemouth, before departing the field to a standing ovation, as the experienced Richard Hughes came on to replace him.
Bournemouth comfortably saw the game out to win 3-1 and to move up to 5th in League One. Since Eddie Howe’s return to the Bournemouth dugout from his stint as Burnley manager, the club have hit impressive form with them losing only 1 game in 18 matches and not losing a single game at home since Howe’s second spell at Dean Court (apart from a 1-0 loss to Wigan in a recent FA Cup replay). There was certainly enough evidence on today’s showing to suggest that Bournemouth will definitely be challenging for promotion and maybe even a push for automatic promotion this season.
Harry had stated before the game that the Cherries are “the best team you’ll see without a good centre midfield” but even he admitted after the game that this phrase had come back to haunt him as the two centre midfielders, Harry Arter and Euan O’Kane, were the pick of the Bournemouth bunch for me, especially in the second half.
It did occur to me on leaving through the turnstiles that I had genuinely not seen a Crewe fan all day. I had seen none in the bars before the game (although, admittedly, I was sure that the two bars I visited were for home fans only), but I had also seen none around the ground. I also had not heard a peep out of them throughout the game, despite being on the far side of our stand; but I guess they had very little to sing about really.
I was actually quite impressed with the atmosphere inside Dean Court – surprisingly impressed actually. The North Stand made a lot of noise throughout the game and I spent a lot of the game trying to work out whether they had a drummer in the stand or whether the constant thudding was just the Bournemouth hardcore rhythmically smashing the advertising hoardings at the back of the North Stand.
After working our way back around the ground, we were back in the 1910 Supporters Bar with Matt and his mate for one last drink, before heading back to Harry’s house.
Originally, we had planned to hit Bournemouth town centre for a night out, but the excitement of the day’s League One football led to us deciding to play it cooler with a night out in Christchurch town centre instead (Ye Olde Ship was a particular pub highlight for me in Christchurch town). Although the highlight of the post match evening had to be the Indian takeaway that we had courtesy of Harry’s Mum – it was truly textbook Madras! I recommend ‘Chutney Corner’ for anyone that is ever in the area – it very much rivals the award-winning Indian takeaway that sits around the corner from my North-West Lost Boyo headquarters. Finally, as I promised, I cannot finish without saying how much I love Harry’s dog, Daisy – she is lovely.
Overall, an excellent weekend on the south coast, which was capped off with a wander along Bournemouth seafront the next day, before the 5 hour train journey back up to Manchester. A big thank you to Harry and his Mum for the hospitality. It did seem strange to think whilst writing this that this was only the second occasion I’ve ever met Harry, but from working with him on our other site, ‘A Great Advert for the Game’, and the accompanying website podcast (available on site and on ITunes), he’s become a good pal of mine. I’m sure he’ll join me on another Lost Boyo adventure in the near future.
PS Since publishing this I’ve been informed that the Steve Fletcher Stand is indeed the only stand in the country which is named after a current player at the club. And apparently there were two drums in North Stand.
Highlights: Food was the really winner today: Harry’s bacon baguette, good pie at the ground and a Chutney Corner takeaway – all were excellent, decent ground, cheap ticket, club bar was good, good game of football, surprisingly good atmosphere, seeing a hatrick, Daisy the Dog.
Low Points: Not that much around the ground, especially in regards to pubs, not sure about the club celebrating it’s ‘Champagne Lounge’ so proudly.