97 days have passed since The Cherries confirmed promotion to the Promised Land. Despite having time for the success to sink in there will be many at Dean Court still pinching themselves come 3pm on Saturday afternoon. The breaking news for AFC Bournemouth fans however – May 2nd wasn’t just a dream!
Bournemouth’s rise up the football pyramid is nothing short of miraculous given the club almost went out of business in 2008. Catapulting from League Two to Premier League over a six year period is proof of a real modern day football fairytale.
Regardless of their eventual position come May, there’s no doubt Eddie Howe’s attacking philosophy will entertain and bring a breath of fresh air to the Premier League. Resolute and talented in equal measure, Howe looks to have assembled a squad reflective of his character. Max Gradel, Tyrone Mings, Joshua King and Lee Tomlin will add speed and creativity, while Howe will look to rely upon Sylvain Distin for his experience and defensive know how.
In stark contrast to Bournemouth’s first ever Premier League season, their opponents Aston Villa will begin their 23rd consecutive season among England’s elite, an impressive feat without achieving success of any note. Just like the home players, many of the players on show for The Villa will also be making their Premier League debuts – to say there have been a few changes at Villa Park recently would be an understatement.
With ten departures and nine new arrivals, Bodymoor Heath has been one, giant revolving door this summer. After witnessing the departure of the club captain and top goalscorer, Sherwood will be relying on the likes of Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair and Jordan Ayew to really hit the ground running.
What can Villa fans expect this year then? Well, it cannot get any worse than last season’s 17th place finish. A run to the FA Cup Final injected some excitement but simply glossed over some poor league performances which almost cost Villa their Premier League life. An improvement in home form and fixing a leaky defence should be key objectives for Sherwood and new assistant manager Ray Wilkins this term.
In all truth, Bournemouth couldn’t have picked a better opening day fixture. Having said this, if they are to survive, these are the matches in which they need to be guaranteeing maximum points.
Villa’s new-look team will take time to gel and are very much an unknown quantity. However, the forever upbeat Sherwood will fancy his chances of beating a newly-promoted team and bursting Bournemouth’s bubble.