It is at times like these that our faith is really tested. It can be lost in a moment and it is difficult to re-discover. As managers, players and supporters we all go through periods like this in football and need to find the resolve to come through it. The greatest thing about the greatest game in the world is that there is always the promise of something greater.
That hope might be burning on a low light for some but it is there and needs to explode this weekend when we host AFC Bournemouth at Adams Park. It would be fair to say that the Cherries are not the ideal side to be facing given their recent upturn in form, but there lies a living example that back-to-back victories could be just around the corner.
Bournemouth itself is a relatively new town. It was largely remote and barren heathland at the turn of the 19th century but it soon grew with the arrival of the railway and became officially recognised as a town in 1870. It has always formed part of Hampshire before being given a free transfer to Dorset when Edward Heath`s government introduced the local government act in 1972. It is now best known as a popular tourist destination with seven miles of glorious sandy beaches.
Three years after the Chairboys were formed Boscombe St. John`s F.C. came into existence. They were dissolved in 1899 and reformed as Boscombe F.C. playing in the Bournemouth and District Junior League. The club were granted a long-lease to play on some wasteland in Kings Park by its` owner Mr Cooper-Dean in 1910 and the ground was named Dean Court after his fine gesture.
Boscombe were promoted to the Southern League in 1920 and three years later they were elected to Division Three South of the Football League (replacing Stalybridge Celtic, who resigned). At the same time they changed their name to Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic F.C. Their most successful period came in the 1980`s under manager Harry Redknapp.
He was appointed in 1983 and the following January they famously beat then F.A. Cup holders Manchester United 2-0 at Dean Court. They also won the Associate Members Cup (now Football League Trophy) in 1984 beating Hull City at Wembley. The Cherries won the Third Division title in 1987 to reach the second tier of English football for the first time in their history.
Their most recent success came in 2010 when they were promoted after finishing as runners-up in League Two under Manager Eddie Howe. The town of Bournemouth has many famous alumni. Soviet spy Anthony Blunt was born there as was the last Briton to win a Grand Slam singles tournament; Virginia Wade. It is also the birthplace of page 3 lovely Leilani Dowling. Comedian Tony Hancock and actress Wendy Richard spent their childhood there and author Mary Shelley is buried in the town.
The club get their nickname”the Cherries” from the fact that Dean Court was originally part of a large Cherry Orchard. You can keep that one that for your next quiz night! The club don`t have many famous followers and the best I can come up with is pop impresario Mel Bush and former Crackerjack presenter Stu Francis.
The Cherries and the Chairboys have shared many famous (and infamous) players and they include: Marek Stech; John Delaney, Adam Smith, Scott Golbourne, Justin Skinner, Brian McGorry, Steven Gregory, Stephen Cooke, Alec Blakeman, Kevin Betsy, Nicholas Bignall, Steve Claridge, Steve Jones, Keith Scott and Trevor Aylott.
The first meeting between the sides was a famous one. The two sides met in a second round F.A. Cup tie at Loakes Park (that was back in the day when clubs` gave a toss about the competition). It ended in a goal-less draw but the replay at Dean Court saw the Blues triumph 2-1 with goals from Tony Horseman and Steve Perrin to reach the third round of the F.A. Cup for the first time in our history.
The next clash was another F.A. Cup tie at Loakes Park in November 1980 but the professionals recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory to progress. It wasn`t until the Blues reached the Football League that the sides met on a level playing field. We hosted the struggling Cherries at Adams Park on New Year`s Eve 1994 and it looked like we would crash to a surprise defeat until the maestro Dave Carroll curled a last-minute free-kick into the top corner from 30 yards. This sap was walking down Hillbottom Road at the time.
Despite salvaging a point it was the start of a poor run of results that would stretch to half-a-dozen meetings without victory. We lost 2-1 under Alan Smith in August 1995. Miguel De Souza pulled a goal back in the second half but it wasn`t enough and Steve Brown was sent-off for nutting a Bournemouth defender in front of the Valley End.
The next two meetings came under the stewardship of John Gregory and both ended in 1-1 draw. A Keith Scott equaliser rescued the first point in April 1997 as the Blues achieved the great escape. Mark Stallard put the hosts in front in the November 1997 clash but John Cornforth`s flying save on the goal-line saw him sent for an early bath and the visitors levelled to take a share of the spoils.
The nightmare start to the 1998/99 season under Neil Smillie included a desperate 2-0 defeat at Adams Park which is best forgotten. Almost 18 months later the sides met on Boxing Day at Adams Park under Lawrie Sanchez and we finally got the monkey off our back with a 2-1 win. Brownie gave us a first-half lead with a sensational Marco van Basten-esque shot from the tightest of angles. *cough, cough*
The visitors levelled before the break but they were reduced to ten men when crash-test-dummy Andy Baird was cleaned out again as he looked to race clear on goal. Sean Devine grabbed the winner to claim a welcome three points. The following season was all about a Jermaine Defoe inspired Cherries and they cruised to a 3-0 victory.
Adams Park was still bathed in a warm F.A. Cup afterglow in October 2001 as the sides fought out a 1-1 draw. The Blues were led by an inspired Darren Currie but had to settle for a point courtesy of Andy Rammell`s equaliser. Two years later Bournemouth became one of just six victims in the league as the club were relegated. Goals from Keith Ryan and loan striker Luke Moore sealed a 2-0 win.
The last meeting between the two sides in Bucks was in October 2008 when striker Matt Harrold notched his first goal for the club to give the Blues a half-time lead. The visitors levelled but Chris Zebroski soon restored the hosts` advantage and striker Scott McGleish sealed all three points with a late third goal. Anyone looking for omens might like to consider our recent record of three wins in our last five meetings at Adams Park.
“All that`s left are memories”