I sit here in the Isle of Man on the eve of News Year Eve 2012 trying to comprehend yet another wild journey that the Cherries have taken us on during 2012. We started the year thinking the play-offs were in reach only to see the inconsistency of form mean we spent a good remainder of the 2011/12 season looking over our shoulders to the relegation zone. We finish the year thinking again of promotion but this time automatically with the return of King Eddie.
We bade farewell to Bradders who was probably just too much one of the boys to wield any real control. Then, as most of us suspected, the uninspiring leadership of Groves & Brooks at the end of last season did not merit them being rewarded with the permanent stewardship of the club.
A start that saw 5 draws in the opening 6 games did not inspire any confidence that we had a promotion chasing squad despite all the money and wages supposedly being spent. A lone win at Yeovil was not a catalyst and after a depressing evening in Crawley, the board finally got the message and moved the duo back to the youth setup.
Now not many things surprise me about following Bournemouth anymore but the return of Eddie & Jase came completely from left field for me. Then once it had happened who could have imagined the immediate effect they would have. I was a firm believer that you should never ‘go back’ as the second time around generally is never as good, but what do I know!
A win in their first game back at Orient on 13 October has been followed by a run of results that has seen us rise from 21st in the league to 5th. Considering this is with the same squad of players that Groves managed it belies belief. We finish 2012 on a 15 game unbeaten streak, 9 wins recorded, on a run of 5 wins in 5 and 2 back to back 3-nil victories over Xmas. We see the fans flocking back to Dean Court and are finally occupying a play-off berth.
The usual Manager of the Month accolade for November nearly scuppered my first trip back to Dean Court but I need not have worried. In Eddie we trust and in this squad, under his leadership, we seemingly have nothing to fear, something I would never have said of the same squad under Groves. The return of Brett bolsters the belief that we are going places and finally tying down Marc Pugh on a new contract suggests we can confidently look forward with optimism.
So we end 2012 in 5th place, just 6pts from the summit and a game in hand. The transfer window may well see a trimming of a squad that is large for this level and a club of our size but I would still welcome one or two additions for back-up in midfield & defence. However, I like the settled line-up Eddie has achieved as we push on towards the Championship.
I look forward to seeing you all at Wigan and trust that you have all enjoyed a truly great festive holiday. My best wishes for a Happy New Year & up the Cherries in all departments.
Nick Wallinger (IOM), Chairman, 30 December 2012