As we look forward to tomorrow’s game against Bournemouth at the Madejski Stadium, we caught up with our friends over at Vital Bournemouth
As we look forward to tomorrow’s game against Bournemouth at the Madejski Stadium, we caught up with our friends over at Vital Bournemouth, who answered a few questions ahead of the game. Dave talks about the rise of the ever-improving Eddie Howe, the Cherries’ expectations for the season and how Ian Harte is getting on at the Goldsands.
1. What were your expectations before the season started?
I was expecting to see a very exciting and open league, which is something I think we’ve all come to love from watching some of the Championship games on the television. As an AFC Bournemouth supporter making the step up from League One, my only hope was to see my team compete and avoid relegation. My expectation was and still is, that we will do that and consolidate our position in this league.
2. Now we are 18 games into the Championship season, what are the realist expectations for Bournemouth?
After our good home form at the start of the season I think expectation levels around Dean Court grew somewhat. Those expectations have been brought back down a peg or two following the recent run of one win in eleven. That said it’s been an incredibly hard run of fixtures, with most coming against the top ten clubs.
I don’t think our realistic expectations have changed any, if anything I’m still very optimistic about this squad. It might be missing some of the quality and experience that that bigger clubs in the division have, but as a squad, it’s competing and even while struggling for goals it is threatening the best teams in the league on massive budgets. It’s very close to being a good squad at this level, playing good attractive football.
Consolidate at this level for next season and hopefully continue to grow and flourish in this division.
3. Eddie Howe`s return to Bournemouth has been nothing short of fantastic, do you worry at all he could be tempted away for a second time?
As one of the most talented young English managers in the football league he’s always going to be a target for other clubs. The difference with Eddie Howe and AFC Bournemouth though is that he is a supporter first and foremost. He grew up supporting the club, came through the youth system to captain the side etc. He holds a special connection with the club and it’s supporters.
From time to time you’ll get the fickle supporters who forget just what he has done for this club during his two spells in change, but for the vast majority he is idolised by the fans and Howe appreciates that more than most managers.
He may well make the step up at some point again, but I think and hope that for the foreseeable future he’s very much settled back home.
4. Who is your stand out player at the moment?
During this recent run of form it’s very difficult to pick out a stand out player. Matt Ritchie returned from injury to star against Brighton, only to be a bit anonymous away to Queens Park Rangers. After suffering with an injury until now, back to back games was probably too soon for him fitness wise.
If he can recover and return to firing on all cylinders then he will be a threat.
5. How has Ian Harte got on for you so far?
Signed very much as a back up to Charlie Daniels and due to some early season injuries Harte got a short run in the side.
His best performance came against Leeds United, but in other games he appears to have struggled for pace and has been caught out quite a bit. No denying his obvious talent from dead ball situations, but don’t expect to see him on Saturday.
6. If you could take any Reading player at the moment, who would it be and why?
The obvious names that stick out for me amongst your squad are the ones who we have previously had on loan such as Alex Pearce and Jem Karacan. Both did well for us during a difficult time for the club alongside James Henry.
No idea if either of them would be what we’re looking for right now though. I’d quite like to see a midfielder who sits in front of the defence, sweeping up the attacks and keeping the ball ticking when we win possession back, someone with experience but also a bit of pace as I think that would really help alongside our very attack minded wingers.
If anyone in your squad fits that bill I’d take them.
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see on Saturday from Howe?
During the early part of the season Howe attempted to experiment with three at the back, but with the absence of Elliott Ward that option is all but gone, so it will be Lee Camp in goal, with Simon Francis, Tommy Elphick, Steve Cook and Charlie Daniels in a traditional back four. That will only change if there is an injury.
It will then likely be a midfield four, with one in the hole behind the main striker. This can set up either with two strikers with Brett Pitman or Lewis Grabban sitting a bit deeper, or as it was against QPR it could be Andrew Surman in a more advanced midfield role.
Take your pick from Matt Ritchie, Marc Pugh and Ryan Fraser down the wings, all have been rotated recently. While Harry Arter will be in central midfield alongside one of Eunan O’Kane and Shaun MacDonald.
Up front will depend on if it’s more of a midfield five or four. The three main options for the two spots are Pitman, Grabban and Tokelo Rantie.
8. What is your prediction for the game?
I expect the first goal to be all important. We will create chances, our problem recently has been taking them. If we can nick one then we will receive a big confidence boost and could grow into the game even more, if we concede then we’re likely to leave gaps at the back as we chase to try and get back into the game.
I don’t really do well on predictions, but I’d be delighted with a point.