To borrow from Wordsworth, bliss was it in that lunchtime to be alive. Your correspondent was standing 4 rows back just offset from the goal; for the whole end, it was Party Time! “We’re Premier League” rang out time after time, as did Eddie’s song. Beforehand, meeting so many old friends with broad grins – Jerry, Ben amongst them – set the tone for the day. Given that each promotion was at least a season ahead of schedule, we had no problem with another 2nd place.
How did this come to pass on a dry, sunny afternoon? Boscombe’s standard “first” 11 – Charlton reject Francis in for Smith – k.o. to the North (home) stand, wearing blue shirts with black shorts & socks. Charlton reject Kermorgant was felled just outside the “D”; Wilson went inside-right & won a corner from which a planned move saw the ball hit over. Addicks showed mobility, but the away team was cultured and relaxed. The Match of the Day theme sounded out from our end, as Pugh came in from the left. He passed in to Kermorgant near the spot; he passed directly to Ritchie coming into the inside-right position just outside the area. The absolutely beautiful left-footed shot curved round 2 defenders and inside the far post; 0-1, 10. The Observer made it Goal of the Day. “We’re Top of the League” came belting out.
Barely time for Addicks to catch breath, when Charlton reject Arter picked the centre-half’s pocket & stuck it away. 0-2, 12. We were standing all the way through – no comment by stewards. But Addicks showed some response, as a low cross flashed almost along the goal-line with the incoming forward just short of it. Pugh was enjoying himself; Wilson’s shot was covered for a corner. The resultant went over the bar. Surman was covering well; Wilson’s next attempt was deflected onto the roof of the net. The corner came into Francis who drove just wide. Wilson again at inside-right went down 20 yards out and the free gained another corner. Boscombe seemed to have 90% of possession – actually 69%. Again from the same channel, Wilson won another 2 corners, but the atmosphere had reduced a little as Hornets had taken the lead home to Wednesday.
Elphick headed out commandingly from a rare home free, and Surman fired over after a lovely flowing move. Another similar move involving Kermorgant, Ritchie & Francis ended with a goal kick. HT: 0-2
Addicks seemed more up for it early in the second period, but Boscombe weathered that storm, meeting the increasingly tasty & desperate challenges with fire and skill. Pugh had had a knock on 40 that helped delay the half-time whistle, but was able to continue his magic and his trade-mark Cruyff turns. Ritchie controlled a cross-field pass with his right instep, off the ground, and lobbed his marker before chipping against the bar; sublime and exquisite. A rare home attempt was deflected over; the corner allowed Francis the opportunity to defend superbly and send Arter away. He sliced his shot instead of feeding Pugh, and was replaced by Gosling on 61. That would save a possible card & suspension early next season.
The game was fast and open, with wave upon wave of Boscombe attacks, Addicks on the back foot, with Ritchie magnificent and the home defence having to make block after block. Pugh had done his bit, swapping with Smith on 69 so Ritchie went left. Daniels shot across; a home injury meant Addicks went down to 10 men. Gosling ran straight at the defence from the centre circle, but was just prevented from putting in a shot. Ritchie let fly from 25 yards, before Kermorgant received his own ovation when coming off for Jones on 82. I decided at this point to make Ritchie my MoM, at which juncture he had a shot blocked and squeezed a second attempt through the ruins of the defence just inside the keeper’s left post – right in line with my position. 0-3, 85, icing on the cake, when it happened. Suddenly this amazing frisson spread through the end; even before media confirmed it, we knew the Wendies had equalized at Vicarage Road. Never felt anything like it before. On confirmation, “We’re Top of the League” had the entire away support roaring in unison. I recall Wembley singing “Football’s Coming Home” as I left the England 4-0 Netherlands game in Euro 96; that was amazing – but this was on another planet. This was Us – Boscombe St. John’s – going up to Div.1 as Champions! Another irony – the Wendies’ scorer was the same guy as scored their equaliser at Dean Court last month. Oh my eyes! The cherry on the icing on the cake!
Daniels had a shot tipped over, and as a last hurrah by the home side Boruc made his only real save by doing the same. FT 0-3 – then we really began to celebrate!
Jeff Mostyn appeared in front of the West stand; the players in due course re-appeared and were introduced 1 by 1 to receive a medal before mounting the podium. Then Elphick lifted the trophy – cue pandemonium! Never mind the 98 goals, 50 away (another record); this was Our Day – the fans, the players (Pugh especially eloquent on TV), and above all Eddie – last to the podium but oh so special a moment when he stopped in front of us holding the trophy aloft.
We didn’t leave the ground until gone 1500, and I reflected on the wider and longer context. At Clapham Junction I met some older Cherries, returning to Blandford, one of whom began watching in 1948. I asked if he’d climbed over the wall to be part of the (unofficial) 35,000 who watched the game against Walsall that year – he couldn’t remember. Then on to the 1957 cup run that put the team into the national consciousness (I didn’t know where Bournemouth was at that time – still a kid in South Wales). Freddie Cox’s second time in charge ending with our first-ever relegation which brought in the style and verve of John Bond’s team with Ted MacDougall & Phil Boyer – only to end in a near-miss, tears, a relegation & the abject banality of the Benson era. David Webb brought steel, organisation & pragmatism to the side, undone by Don Megson’s brief “reign” & in due course Harry Redknapp taking over. That wonderful day, Fulham, May ’87…
Then the slide back, the financial crises, the buckets around the ground, near-annihilation, the first Great Escape under Mel Machin, then the Sean O’Driscoll era with relegation followed by that extraordinary day at Cardiff, 2003. More financial crises, Jeff Mostyn writing cheques at crucial times, 17-point penalty; then Jimmy Quinn’s mercifully brief period following the horrible cup games (under Kevin Bond) at Barrow but including the disgraceful performances at Blyth Spartans and Accrington Stanley led to Our Eddie taking over as there was no-one else. His first 2 games – losing 2-1 at Darlo & 1-0 at Millers (Don Arena) made us wonder what was going on, although even then we felt we were good enough to not lose either match. But for those of us who attended those games, we have witnessed the transformation of the club under the man who is already our greatest-ever manager. Yes, Eddie Mitchell (bless his little cotton socks) pulled us out of the financial mire & brought in Max Demin, but on the pitch it’s all about Eddie & what he’s done with his players. How did such a rookie drag us away from the edge of the pit in spring 2009?
Promotion in 2010 – quite unrealistic – but what a lovely day at Burton Albion, all on the pitch. The unsettling move to Turf Moor let in Bradbury & Groves, who between them brought in our entire current back four plus Eunan O’Kane & Sean MacDonald but (especially Groves) couldn’t form the side into a winning outfit. The transformation that Eddie wrought on return, October 2012, was quite extraordinary, ending with that also unlikely 2013 promotion. And so to this moment, which will be cherished by all true Cherries. This day is for all those fans – from the 1948 guy onwards.
A couple of special moments from the season: on return from our win at Wolves, I felt the team had in a subtle way grown up – matured. Then there was Ritchie’s exocet to give us the lead home to Wednesday; not just the shot, utterly astounding – but the way Matt went absolutely potty, running around the pitch with arms spread; I felt any moment he’d be up the pylons & running over the stand roof. To top it all, that incredible moment when we knew that Watford had been held and we were TOP OF THE LEAGUE!
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!
Ritchie gave a master-class in wide play; not only the 2 goals but the instant control, support, vision, and confidence in his own ability. Quite wonderful.
We've seen some remarkable things supporting the Cherries over the years, but this has to go down as a truly special achievement!!
AFCB: Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh, Kermorgant, Wilson
Subs: Allsop, Ward, Fraser, Pitman, Gosling (for Arter, 61 mins), Smith (for Pugh, 69 mins), Jones (for Kermorgant, 82 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford