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Features

Bourne Legacy: Stephen Purches

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Also two decades since he first signed for the Cherries, Stephen Purches talks about his time in Bournemouth colours.

Stephen Purches made more than 300 appearances for AFC Bournemouth and has been at the club for 17 years, joining the club’s coaching staff following his retirement in May 2014.

He signed from West Ham in July 2000 and starred as a Jermain Defoe-inspired Cherries team went close to reaching the Division Two play-offs in his first season.

Purches scored one of the most spectacular team goals ever seen at the Millennium Stadium as the Cherries triumphed 5-2 against Lincoln City in the Division Three play-off final in May 2003.

He moved to Leyton Orient in June 2007 and was appointed captain at Brisbane Road before re-joining the Cherries for a second spell three years later.

Purches was awarded a richly-deserved testimonial and welcomed former club West Ham to Vitality Stadium in July 2013.

A double leg fracture, sustained at Rochdale in February 2012, forced Purches to hang up his boots before he joined Eddie Howe’s coaching staff.

Decorated with the prestigious UEFA Pro Licence, his first role saw him head up the club’s development squad before he became first-team coach in February 2017.

How did your move to AFC Bournemouth come about?

I was at West Ham and Harry Redknapp told me Bournemouth were interested and said I should have a look. I came here, played in the Avon Insurance Combination Cup final which we won 2-0 against Ipswich and felt at home straight away.

I think the deal had almost been done between Harry and Mel Machin and I had a decision to make which was an easy one at the time. I wanted to play and was just a squad player at West Ham. It was the best decision I ever made.

You only played one league game under Mel Machin – why was that?

It was a strange one. He was in charge for the first game of the season at Bristol Rovers and then it all changed virtually overnight. Sean O’Driscoll took over as manager and Mel became director of football.

Mel was here for most of that season and Sean went on to be a big part of my career.

What are your memories of 2000/01, your first season at the club?

It was a great season to be a part of and I learned so much. I had known Jermain Defoe from West Ham and he came here and had a big effect on all our careers.

We almost made the play-offs and it all went down to the Reading game. It was 3-3 and I had a shot cleared off the line in injury-time. That could have been my champagne moment but it wasn’t meant to be.

It was a very good first season for me in the professional game.

What was it like to taste relegation in your second season?

I learned that the saying ‘you’re never too good to go down’ was a fallacy and that will always stick with me.

Expectations were high and everybody was very excited about moving back to Dean Court after the stadium had been redeveloped.

Unfortunately, the timing of the move didn’t help us because we had got used to playing at Dorchester after a bad start there. It almost felt as if would have been nice to carry on because we had started winning there.

We were excited to play in the stadium but so were other teams as well. I think they enjoyed playing here and it had a big effect on all our careers. Relegation is something I never want to go through again.

And promotion the following season must have been a major high in your career?

There was a lot of pressure on us after we had been relegated. We had a good, young squad and everyone pretty much stayed together from the previous season.

We had learned a lot and stuck together. We didn’t get off to a great start but then, bit by bit, we managed to get into a decent vein of form.

We had a fairly settled team and you always enjoy seasons when you’re winning. From a personal point of view, I played pretty much every game that season and ended up playing in central midfield during the latter part of the season. The change of position fortunately allowed me to get forward for the goal in the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.

That season, I also got to play with my brother John so that was something I had always wanted to do in my career.

What do you remember about the final day of the 2004/05 season?

We needed to beat Hartlepool to reach the play-offs but could only draw 2-2. It was a big disappointment.

Again, we had kept together most of the squad and we had some great players, some who went on to play at a higher level with other clubs.

We knew we had the nucleus of a good team and we had momentum from the previous season. We felt that if we could get in the play-offs, we could go up again to the Championship. Looking back, we should have done better with that squad.

What were your reasons for leaving the club for Leyton Orient in 2007?

Moving back to where I came from played a part in my decision. I wouldn’t have wanted to move to too many other areas and it was the toughest decision of my career to that point.

I could see things were unravelling a little here and maybe I didn’t feel comfortable with it. It was a difficult situation and it just felt right to experience something new.

Looking back, it was the right decision because it gave me a chance to sample life at a different club and get new experiences. I was captain for three years and learned about the leadership side of the game.

It was a real moment of change in my life during those three years. I’d got married to Jilly, moved back to London and become a father for the first time. It was right decision at that time.

Is it fair to say that when you came back in 2010, you had missed all the fun?

I had kept in touch with Ed and Jase a lot throughout my time away and watched a fair few of their games when they were in London. I was at Dagenham when Molesley scored his famous goal!

It was really interesting to see what was going on and everything they were starting to build and it was exciting to be looking in from the outside. When I was asked if I wanted to come back, it was a no-brainer.

When I think how fate works, perhaps if I had stayed in 2007 then I may never have had the chance to come back and experience everything I did so it was a good time to come back because of everything that was going on.

What are your memories of the fateful day your playing career ended?

There are probably two moments in my career that I will be remembered for – scoring at the Millennium and that day at Rochdale when I broke my leg. It’s something you dread and it could happen to anybody.

I was enjoying my football at that point. I was playing central midfield and was playing regularly. I had just signed a new deal so had some piece of mind with regards what I was going to do.

I had already started doing a bit of coaching with the academy and had always thought about going down that road when my career ended so did my badges early.

I had to try to make sure I turned a negative into a positive. I was fortunate to have massive support from my family and they made sure I was in a good place.

It can go one of two ways – you can sulk, think the world’s against you and it’s the end of everything or you can try to think there’s an opportunity for you to move into something different.

I thought my coaching career could be a lot longer than my playing career and did everything I could to make sure I was ready for it.

Breaking my leg was a negative but, overall, it had a really positive outcome because it made me take another path and one I’m still in today which is something I will always be grateful for.

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