Bournemouth are on the verge of clinching promotion to the Premier League: a dramatic turnaround for a football club facing liquidation seven years ago.
Think of AFC Bournemouth and the name Eddie Howe comes to mind, with Gary Lineker wondering “whether we’ve possibly found the English special one”. The current manager of the Championship side has a long history with the club, but the south coast team can also boast the services of Harry Redknapp, who spent 10 years there, and former England internationals Rio Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe.
Not bad for a club that has never played at the top level of English football, but not enough to save them from administration in past times. Now Russian businessman Maxim Deminof has come to the rescue.
Redknapp, who went on to manage West Ham and Tottenham, makes Howe his first player signing. After leaving for local rivals Portsmouth, Bournemouth fans raise money online to pay for Howe’s return – not the first time the club’s loyal supporters have dug deep on behalf of their club.
Howe is made player-coach at the age of 29, but retires as a footballer after injury.
Debt-laden Bournemouth, in the bottom tier of English football (League Two), are placed in administration for the second time in a decade. They are five minutes away from liquidation when chairman Jeff Mostyn forks out hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep them going.
Bournemouth are docked 17 points at the start of the season, putting them in grave danger of being forced out of the Football League.
As the Cherries fight to stay in the league, Howe is made permanent manager. Fans have to wait till the final game of the season before their survival as a League Two team is confirmed.
Having finished 21st in 2008-09, Bournemouth end the season in second place, winning promotion to League One.
There is heartache for the fans as Howe (pictured above) joins Burnley. Bournemouth finish eighth in League One. Russian businessman Maxim Demin, who likes to stay out of the limelight, buys a 50 per cent stake in the club.
Bournemouth finish 11th in League One.
Howe rejoins Bournemouth, as the club increases its spending on transfer fees. With the financial support of Demin, director of Surrey-based Wintel Petrochemicals, they spend more on players than any other League One club and win promotion to the Championship.
Demin becomes Bournemouth’s full owner. They finish 10th in the Championship.
Bournemouth achieve some stunning results, thrashing Birmingham City 8-0 and Blackpool 6-1, and are applauded for the style of football they play. Despite their increased spending on players, only two have cost more than £1m.
Howe, now 37, becomes the Football League’s first ever manager of the decade, having taken Bournemouth through three divisions to the Premier League – a proud moment for a man who used to watch the team from the stands as a boy.
Bournemouth beat Bolton 3-0, leaving them three points and 19 goals clear of third-placed Middlebrough in the Championship, with just one game to play (Watford have already won promotion to the Premier League after finishing top).
One of Bournemouth’s goals is scored by Callum Wilson, who has found the net 20 times this season.
Howe tells the BBC: “For all football fans, this is the perfect story and hopefully it gives hope for every club that you can come back from oblivion and get to the Premier League.”
For the first time in their 116-year history, Bournemouth play in the top flight of English football, having laboured in or below the third tier for all but five years.
Their lowly status is reflected in the capacity of their stadium. Goldsands has room for just 12,000 people, making it the smallest stadium in Premier League history. Visiting supporters have been known to cheer (with their tongues in their cheeks) when attendance figures are announced.