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Matchday feature: Leaders don't always roar

Posted: Fri 25 Mar 2016

AFC Bournemouth's Andrew Surman spoke to Matchday ahead of the Barclays Premier League match against Swansea City, where the midfielder talks about his whirlwind season so far.

‘The key to being a great leader is through influence not authority.’

That’s a famous quote from the late Ken Kesey, a renowned American author, novelist and poet who felt that a leader isn’t someone who points and demands, but leads by example.

The Cherries have a dressing room full of personalities like that, none more so than Andrew Surman.

The 29-year-old isn’t the most vocal off the pitch, but is the perfect example of an exemplary influence.

"My nature as a character is to be a bit more laid back and reserved," he starts.
"I’ve never been a massive shouter, off the pitch I’m not the loudest. I’m quite vocal on the pitch but there are different ways to lead. Some can lead with their voice or performance, but I think the most important thing is to play as well as you can.

"Not everyone is going to be 100 per cent on their game all the time, but if you are, you can pull people through and in that sense I think that’s what sort of leader I would try to be."

Surman prefers actions over words for his style of leadership and this season, his actions have drawn national attention.

It’s been well documented that the midfielder has ran more distance than any other Barclays Premier League player, running on average 12.2km a game and becoming the first player in the top flight to clock 300km for the season.

But what does he put those extraordinary statistics down to?

"Well, the first thing I think of is the nature of the team, the intensity is very high," Surman continues.

"Everything is measured by statistics, but they’ve got to be effective. There’s no point in running around if you’re not actually achieving anything.
"I’ve stayed injury free and I’ve played every game, so that’s been helpful. But it’s not a stat that I constantly check, it just happens. Ahead of games I don’t think right, let’s run 12k today.

"All of our training regimes are high intensity, so we have it drilled into us on a regular basis.

"The gaffer sets high standards and expects everyone to work and give 100 per cent every day, he expects people to buy into what he wants and he sets very high standards every single day.

"There is a real work ethic in the camp from the staff and the players, no one has time to rest and that’s been a real basis of our season: hard work."

That hard work has seen the Cherries move eleven points clear of safety following the 3-1 win over Newcastle United, where Surman put in another quietly efficient performance.

The heartbeat of the midfield, the former Norwich man believes that he is now playing the best football of his career.

Though that would mean nothing should the Cherries not survive in the Barclays Premier League.

"This is the first season in the Premier League where I've played every game in a position I feel is my best," he starts.

"I’d played out wide for a lot of my career as well, so this is definitely my best season.
"I think my attributes best suit playing in the middle, of course I’ll play out wide if I’m required but I’ve enjoyed getting the ball and keeping things ticking.

"For the team I think it’s going well. We may be 11 points above the drop but I’d say we’re probably frustrated in a way. We feel we’ve deserved more points with the way we’ve been playing.

"In some games, we’ve dominated but only drawn or lost. We’re in a good position but we should be judged at the end of the season, there’s still a lot to do.

"I think staying up would be the best achievement of my career to date. Winning the Championship is probably the biggest achievement and staying up with Norwich was a big thing too.

"But for me - and I am sure most of the squad – keeping us up would be the highlight our careers to date."

Surman has experienced all of the highs and lows this season, not missing a single Barclays Premier League game thus far.

Despite playing in every game and having previous top flight experience, Surman is always keen to learn and the hard work goes in off the pitch as well as on it for the Cherries squad.

"There have been tough times, but the highlight so far is probably the win at Chelsea.

"I think that kick-started our season, we can always look at that game for inspiration almost, we know we can achieve things and we need to maintain this form now until the end of the season to ensure we stay in this league.

"Usually on the way back from an away game I will watch the game.

"After the Saints game I stayed up and watched it immediately after, it’s important. We’ve got a good setup here, the analysis staff put all your clips on and the players will watch them – which can only be beneficial.

"As long as it’s done in a positive way of course, but I feel that has helped us to improve, whether it’s been good, bad or indifferent.

"Everyone watches their clips and maybe that has helped us with this little run we’ve been on, everyone is keen to keep learning."

Surman’s next stage of learning could be the international stage, with murmurs of him being called up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad gathering pace.

The midfielder turned down the chance to play for South Africa back in 2012, the country of his birth.

He moved to England at the age of eight and is eligible for both countries, but is adamant that he isn’t focussing on that side of his career.

"Anyone's goal is to play for their country and it would be absolutely amazing to do so," he smiles.

"I was offered the chance to play for South Africa back in 2012 but I didn’t pursue it, I have got a young family and travelling around the world would limit my time with them.
"I've sort of extinguished that possibility of playing for them again, I was honoured to be called up and met with the manager at the time. I just couldn’t commit. 

"Playing in the African Cup of Nations and things like that affect you, you’re weeks away from home and as I said before, I have a young family. 

"I was born there but I moved when I was young so I don't remember a lot about the country, but it is a lovely country and my mum and dad live there for half of the year.

"I haven’t been back since, to be honest. I’m not focussing on international football really, we need the points to stay up and that is where my focus lies."

They say a good leader is a focussed one. Surman will let his actions do the talking.
Surman's full feature was in the programme for the Swansea City game. Don't miss all of our exclusive interviews with the first-team players, as well as all of our other award winning content in Matchday, available around the ground for £3.50 or online earlier for Apple and Android.