On my only previous visit, I’d found myself in the opposite end (The newly built south stand) taking in a scrappy 1-1 draw with Watford in the middle of January. I noted the obvious difference in temperature, and the great big yellow thing in the sky as I perched myself down at the front of Block 13. I’m sorry to say it though Bournemouth fans, I wasn’t really a neutral for this one. Anybody that knows me, will vouch for me when I say that all I talk about is football. As and when the topic of Dutch football arises, the first person I mention is Graziano Pellè. The Italian forward has become something of a Feyenoord legend in the past couple of years, scoring 55 goals in 66 games during his two seasons in Rotterdam. He manged to catch my attention during that time, and I felt a little bit giddy as I watched him casually stroke the ball around during the pre-match warm up.
What with it only being a pre-season friendly, there wasn’t much at stake. You couldn’t tell that sitting in with the AFCB fans mind. They made for a great atmosphere during the 90 minutes, with songs such as ‘Adam Lallana’ and ‘Where have your players gone’. They were very much on the laughing at Southampton’s expense bandwagon, but I have to confess to laughing along on a couple of occasions.
One of the things I love most about groundhopping, is impulse decisions. Being a Bashley fan both home and away, I tend to have my travels pretty much arranged in advance, but on the odd occasion I find myself with some free time to visit a game, a sensation of excitement sweeps over me.
Thursday night (24th July) just so happened to be one of those nights. With no plans for the following evening, I found myself perusing my Bible (http://uk.soccerway.com/ – for anybody interested) and came across the AFC Bournemouth vs Southampton fixture, to be played at Dean Court on the night I wanted. Just 15 minutes later, and my ticket was booked. I was going to Dean Court, for my second visit I might add.
The evening couldn’t have got off to a better start. It was pissing with rain, and the trains were delayed. No matter, a quick coffee would sort things out. It did the job, and I was soon heading over to Pokesdown for Boscombe train station, before a short 20 minute walk to the ground. Thankfully, the rain had died down during the ten minutes I was on the train, and I was able to enjoy a stroll towards the ground without having to hook my hoodie out of my bag. The walk was made even better with the comfort of my new phone (my photo-taking capabilities have been restored) and a young lad just a few metres in front of me excitedly discussing everything AFC Bournemouth with his Dad.
AFCB were originally formed in 1890 as Boscombe St. John’s Institute FC, but were re-branded in 1899 as Boscombe FC following the dissolving of the previous side. The club then became Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic FC in 1923, and didn’t change to their modern title until 1972. The land on which Dean Court is built was granted to the football club way back in 1910, and is supposedly named after the Cooper-Dean family of Bournemouth. The ground has been through a number of names, including ‘The Fitness First Stadium’ and it’s current title ‘The Goldsands’ through sponsorship deals, but I’m never one for corporate tags and so Dean Court it shall remain.
On arrival at Dean Court – I did warn you – I picked up my programme from resident programme salesman Andrew (Incidentally, I coach for the youth football side he manages) and headed for the club store. Unbeknownst to myself, the club had released their new third kit (It’s rather lovely, I must say) and it was on general sale for the first time that night. The store was swamped. I fought my way through the crowds, a tad disgruntled as I was only after a pin badge. Locating my prize, I paid up, and went looking for my seat in the Steve Fletcher stand.
The game itself wasn’t particularly pulsating, but it was an enjoyable watch nonetheless. The only goal of the game came from a Lloyd Isgrove diving header 20 minutes in, but it was obvious on the pitch that it was only a friendly, despite a couple of rash challenges in the opening exchanges. Artur Boruc was forced to pull off an excellent stop right in front of me about midway through the first half, as the Pole found himself back-pedalling to scoop out a deflected cross from the right.
On the night, I thought Lloyd Isgrove was excellent. He looked comfortable on the ball, didn’t shy away from a challenge, and of course got his goal. There’s a lot of talk at the moment about Saints’ supposed fire sale of players, but if he continues to progress in the way he is, I fully expect Isgrove to be a crucial member of the first team in the near future. For Bournemouth, I felt Callum Wilson had a good game (He only played the first 45 minutes), as he made a real nuisance of himself in amongst the Premier League back four, and new signing Dan Gosling also made an impression in the centre of midfield.
Full-time: AFC Bournemouth 0-1 Southampton
I’ve enjoyed my visits to Dean Court on both occasions, and it is a nice ground, despite it being a little small at the moment for the ambitions the club have, that’s just my opinion though. If they can pull off another top half finish in the Championship this season, then I think a 12,000 seater isn’t big enough and they may have to look at further expansion. The ground and club is nice enough mind, so much so, I will be returning in October for the league fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion.