Harry Arter says he would like to bottle and save the final week of AFC Bournemouth’s historic 2014/15 promotion campaign.
Arter was named supporters’ player of the year as Eddie Howe’s heroes clinched the Championship title to win a place in the Premier League.
The midfielder netted nine crucial goals and missed just three games as the Cherries prevailed following an epic battle which went down to the last kick of the season.
But there was one particular goal which had absolutely nothing to do with Arter, even if he celebrated it as if he had scored the winner in the World Cup final.
In the latest in our series of interviews for The Journey, Arter starts by recalling the events of the penultimate Saturday of the season when he was among the crowd at Craven Cottage to see his brother-in-law Scott Parker help Fulham to an eventful 4-3 win over Middlesbrough.
Arter, who is currently on loan to the Cottagers, told afcb.co.uk: “Scottie got me three tickets and I went with a couple of friends.
“At that point of the season, you couldn’t help but watch what other teams were doing because you knew how close we were to winning promotion.
“Watford beat Brighton that weekend to go up and, if Middlesbrough lost to Fulham, all we had to do was beat Bolton on the Monday.
“Although we were sitting in a mixed zone behind one goal, the stand was full of Middlesbrough fans.
“Thankfully, I had a hat on so none of them could recognise me and my mates were under strict instructions not to celebrate if Fulham scored.
“It was going well and Fulham went 3-1 up. But Middlesbrough pulled it back to 3-3 and then won a corner in the final minute.
“Middlesbrough didn’t have to win the game and would have stayed above us with a draw. But for some reason, they sent their goalkeeper up to try to get a winner.
“It was an incredible end to the game because Fulham broke away and Ross McCormack scored to make it 4-3 to Fulham (pictured below with the matchball).
“As he was sprinting down the line, I turned to my mates and said “lads, we’ve got to get out of here because if Fulham score, I’m not going to be able to control myself”.
“We ran down the stairs and just as we reached the exit, McCormack put the ball in the net. I ran out of the ground and was celebrating as if I’d scored the goal! It was incredible.”
Two days later, Arter starred in a 3-0 win against Bolton as the Cherries all but sealed promotion before he netted in a 3-0 victory against his former club Charlton as the title was secured.
He added: “To win the Bolton game 3-0 with so much control and with so much riding on it showed what the team was all about.
“We celebrated in the town that night and Eddie gave us the Tuesday off. But come the Wednesday morning it was like we hadn’t as good as been promoted.
“The way the manager was on to us about training well, it was more like the fifth game of the season or we were fighting to stay up. You could see he was desperate to win the league and that rubbed off on us.
“I think some of us had accepted that we probably wouldn’t win the title because Watford were in the driving seat but the manager was having none of it. That’s what made us so successful in the Premier League in the following years.
“We went to Charlton and put on a show for our supporters. The quality showed we deserved to be in the Premier League.
“It was a fairytale for me to go back to the club that released me as a kid and to score and for us to go up as champions. You couldn’t write it.
“If I could bottle and save that week and relive it in the future, I know I would always have something special to look forward to.”
Arter, who also tasted promotion with the Cherries in 2012/13, forged a solid central midfield partnership with Andrew Surman as the Premier League dream became a reality.
“I remember going into that season in a really positive frame of mind,” said Arter. “I had worked so hard during the off-season, probably harder than ever before.
“I was on holiday in Dubai with Simon Francis and Richard Hughes and our families and I remember them telling me to relax because it was the off-season. But I had a selfish drive and really wanted to make a difference, both personally and for the club.
“We started the season so well with the win at Huddersfield and, from that point on, you could see we had such qualities that other teams couldn’t match.
“We were up against some big clubs which had come down from the Premier League and they had some big players.
“My drive was to prove I was better than those players and I think that was a collective goal for everyone.”
Arter enjoyed a five-match purple patch during December when he scored in consecutive wins against Wolves, Cardiff, Blackpool, Fulham and Millwall.
He sat out back-to-back defeats against Brentford and Nottingham Forest in February through suspension and picked up a further one-match ban and a £2,000 fine after pleading guilty to a charge of improper conduct following the 3-1 reverse at the hands of the Bees at Griffin Park.
“I even managed to get a suspension in a game I didn’t even play in!” he joked. “Mike Dean was the ref at Brentford and I didn’t think he had a very good game.
“I get on well with him now which is mad to think but I lost it with him after that game. I hammered him and he reported me to the FA.
“Those two defeats came during a run of five matches when we didn’t win. But we hit another level after that little blip.
“I watched a re-run of the Middlesbrough game on YouTube recently. I didn’t realise how tight the league was when we played them at home and they were above us that day.
“We smashed them 3-0 and that was when I really believed we had the ability and character to go up. I remember our second goal being a bit special!”