IN FOCUS: AFC Bournemouth

By SFC Media time Wed 24 Jun Club

We begin our look at the three new teams Ronald Koeman’s side will face next season with the lowdown on AFC Bournemouth.

Eddie Howe masterminded one of the big success stories in the Football League last season, guiding AFC Bournemouth to promotion as winners of the Championship.

The 2015/16 campaign will see the Cherries compete in the Premier League for the first time in their 125-year history.

It was an incredible season for Howe’s men as they took the Championship by storm, eventually winning the title on the final day of the season thanks to a 3-0 win against Charlton Athletic.

Howe is already relishing the prospect of leading Bournemouth next season. “Whether you are a player or a coach, you should always want to test yourself against the best,” he told local reporters.

“We will get the opportunity to do that next season. We’ve got a tough start, a tough middle and a tough end – that’s how difficult the Premier League is going to be.

“I am under no illusions about how difficult it is going to be. But we will enjoy it and try to relish every moment of the experience we are going to face.”

The first meeting with Saints comes on Saturday 31st October, as the Cherries travel to St Mary’s, before the reverse fixture on Tuesday 1st March at the Goldsands Stadium.

The two sides have met just 21 times in total, with the last meeting coming in March 2011. Saints won the League 1 fixture 3-1 away from home, with Lee Barnard, Dean Hammond and Rickie Lambert on the scoresheet. The reverse fixture that season ended in 2-0 win for Saints at St Mary's thanks to goals from Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Bournemouth's last win against Saints came in 1987, when they won a Littlewoods Cup clash 1-0. It has been almost 57 years since their last league victory against Saints, which came courtesy of a 2-1 win in a Division Three clash in October 1958.

Bournemouth get their inaugural Premier League season under way against Aston Villa at home, before facing Liverpool and West Ham United in their opening three fixtures.

Howe’s men face a tough end to the season, with Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United to face in five of their last seven matches.

The Cherries have already been busy in the transfer market, completing four signings ahead of their maiden Premier League campaign.

Former Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc was the first to join, signing a permanent deal having spent time on loan at the Goldsands Stadium last season.

Fellow stopper Adam Federici was the next to join, signing on a free from Championship side Reading, before Joshua King completed a move from Blackburn Rovers.

Christian Atsu became their fourth signing of the close season as he joined on loan from Premier League winners Chelsea at the end of May.

As well as Boruc, Saints fans will be well aware of the Cherries’ Andrew Surman. The midfielder spent five seasons on the books at St Mary’s, making 146 appearances and scoring 17 goals.

Howe and Bournemouth will be hoping attacking duo Callum Wilson and Matt Ritchie can continue their fine form from last season to help them maintain their Premier League status.

Wilson, 23, joined from Coventry City ahead of the 2014/15 campaign and scored 23 goals in all competitions to help fire the Cherries to promotion.

Ritchie also played a huge part in their success last season. The midfielder, who is now part of the Scotland squad thanks to his form in 2014/15, made 55 appearances and scored 16 goals.

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