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Features

Next Moves: Leicester City

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

As the Cherries prepare for Sunday night's crunch game with Leicester City, we take a look at a player who was popular with both teams.

In the absence of our MATCHDAY programme, Gareth Davies continues his series of features on the players who have pulled on the shirts of the Cherries and our upcoming opponents, this time the Foxes from Leicester City.

For Bournemouth, the 2007/08 campaign was one which promised much, but delivered mostly heartbreak due to a mixture of disappointments on the pitch and financial woes off it.

It would be the first full season in charge for then manager Kevin Bond after he took over from Sean O’Driscoll, who had left for Doncaster Rovers in September 2006.

Bond had inherited a squad that had been put together on a shoe-string budget and some astute loan signings, with the most notable being striker David McGoldrick from Southampton, saved Bournemouth from the drop.

During the summer of 2007, Bond started shaping his own side and this meant that club legend Steve Fletcher left the club to join Chesterfield. Fletcher’s striking sidekick James Hayter reunited with O’Driscoll at Doncaster while Stephen Purches joined Leyton Orient.

Eddie Howe was forced to hang up his boots due to a persistent knee injury, while fellow defenders Karl Broadhurst and Shaun Maher were also released.

To replace those departing, Bond plumped for a mix of experience and youth. Ryan Garry came in from Arsenal to boost defensive options as did former Portsmouth trainee Jason Pearce.

Much travelled duo Paul Telfer and Russell Perrett also joined the club although neither really hit the heights expected. Striker Jo Kuffour was handed Fletcher’s number ten jersey and midfielder Marvin Bartley was plucked from non-league.

Max Gradel

Bond also complimented his permanent additions with four loan signings and they debuted in the season opener away at Nottingham Forest.

The Cherries, resplendent in a fine all white away ensemble, picked up an encouraging 0-0 draw with temporary transfers Asmir Begovic, Garreth O’Connor, Jean Christophe and Max Gradel all featuring.

Unfortunately, Begovic and Christophe, both on loan from Portsmouth, failed to make the desired impact and went back to Fratton Park quicker than had been hoped. For O’Connor, a mainstay of a brilliant midfield under O’Driscoll two years previous, he lived up to the old football adage that you should never go back.

Gradel, a French-speaking Ivorian winger, was a different kettle of fish altogether and right from the word go, he excelled in unfamiliar surroundings having made the temporary switch from then Championship outfit Leicester City.

Although he probably didn’t realise it at the time, it was very much a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for Gradel as both the Foxes and Bournemouth were beset by turmoil during 2007/08 – although for very differing reasons.

Leicester started the campaign with Martin Allen in charge after he had left MK Dons. However, a rocky relationship when Foxes chief Milan Mandaric over player signings meant Allen left after just four games and he was replaced by Gary Megson.

Once again, a short managerial tenure ensued as Megson remained in the Leicester hot seat for just 41 days before he left to manage Premier League side Bolton Wanderers.

Leicester’s third permanent manager of the campaign was Ian Holloway, who left Plymouth Argyle for the East Midlands outfit. However, the popular Holloway couldn’t arrest a decline in fortunes and the Foxes were relegated into the third tier.

Despite the struggles at Leicester and his form for Bournemouth, Gradel spent most of the season at Dean Court over two loan spells. His first was cut short during the autumn months due to a family bereavement, but Bond left the door open for a return and after time spent in his native homeland, Gradel did once more move to the South Coast in January 2008.

However, the circumstances were much different for the Cherries now as they had been plunged into administration due to mounting debts after a sale and leaseback scheme of Dean Court failed to bring the financial stability needed.

A year earlier, a consortium led by current Bournemouth chairman Jeff Mostyn and local businessman Steve Sly had taken control of the club, but despite their best efforts and much-needed investment, the decision to place the club into administration was taken.

Just before this, the second administration in little over ten years, Gradel had made a welcome return to Bond’s squad and he was the catalyst for three impressive victories in four games. This included a stunning 2-0 home win over fallen giants Forest and a 3-1 victory at Port Vale – the Cherries' first win at the Potteries-based outfit for 20 years.

With administration came the standard ten-point deduction from the Football League which made relegation inevitable for Bournemouth.

However, with the task of avoiding the drop looking impossible going into the final seven games, Bournemouth racked up six consecutive wins, but failure to beat Carlisle on the final day, coupled with Cheltenham’s surprise victory over Doncaster, meant Bond’s side went down.

Unsurprisingly, given his impressive performances, Gradel returned to Leicester and under new boss Nigel Pearson, who had replaced Holloway, the Ivorian starred as the Foxes made their third tier stay a brief one.

The following campaign, though, Gradel fell down the pecking order and spent most of 2009/10 on loan at Leeds United. Leicester, meanwhile, nearly made it two consecutive promotions before an agonising play-off semi-final defeat on penalties to Cardiff with Yann Kermorgant, a player that would join Bournemouth in 2014, missing one of the Foxes’ spot kicks.

Gradel was a popular figure during his time at Elland Road and joined the Yorkshire giants on a free transfer. After two years with United, Gradel left for French side Saint-Etienne where he would remain until 2015 when he reunited with Bournemouth – by then in the Premier League.

Sadly, for Gradel, he suffered a serious knee injury in the first home start of his second spell, coincidentally against Leicester City. He did battle back to full fitness and after scoring in a 3-2 home win against Swansea in March 2016, he ran to the touchline and embraced boss Eddie Howe. To this day it remains one of the most poignant images of Bournemouth’s top-flight tenure to date.

As can be the case with serious injuries, Gradel never looked the same player despite regaining full fitness and, in August 2017, joined French Ligue 1 side Toulouse on a season-long loan.

This became a full transfer the following summer and despite the lack of success second-time round, Gradel’s time with the Cherries and the Foxes for that matter, is still looked back on fondly by supporters.

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