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Features

Promotion pipe dream became a reality

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

As their team languished in the League One relegation zone along with Scunthorpe, Hartlepool and Bury, it was a day only the most optimistic AFC Bournemouth fan could ever have predicted.

Promotion to the second flight after a 23-year absence seemed a mere pipe dream following a poor start to 2012/13 which saw the Cherries muster just eight points from their first 11 games.

But the return of management duo Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall sparked the next chapter in one of the most remarkable success stories in the recent history of English football.

The fairy tale began when Howe and Tindall masterminded the Greatest Escape in 2008/09 and continued when they plotted promotion from League Two against all the odds just 12 months later.

Enticed back in October 2012 following a spell at Burnley, Howe and Tindall inherited a talented squad which had failed to click during the early part of the season.

And they quickly sprinkled their magic dust, a 17-match unbeaten run propelling the Cherries into the promotion picture and earning them a place in the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in eight years.

Although a five-game losing streak threatened to derail the push, a club record eight wins in succession ensured the champagne corks would start popping.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of a 3-1 win over Carlisle which sealed promotion to the Championship.

Goals from Steve Cook, Harry Arter and Brett Pitman – coupled with second-placed Doncaster’s shock home defeat by Notts County – secured the victory which took the Cherries to the summit.

And after rivals Brentford failed to beat Hartlepool in a late kick-off televised live by Sky Sports, the Cherries were assured of a top-two finish.

As fans of Scunthorpe, Hartlepool and Bury – the Cherries’ bed partners in the bottom four in October – contemplated relegation, the party was in full swing at Dean Court.

To mark the occasion, afcb.co.uk caught up with skipper Tommy Elphick and midfielder Harry Arter to get their memories of the big day.

Elphick, who was crowned player of the year in 2012/13, said: “It was my first season at the club after signing from Brighton and I was coming back after a serious injury.

“We got off to a poor start and then went on an unbelievable run. We had a bit of a wobble but the club record eight wins on the spin would have been deserving of getting promoted from any league.

“I think the Carlisle game was more a sense of relief than enjoyment. A lot of the squad had dropped down from the Championship and we had put pressure on ourselves to get back.

“We were all on a similar path on the journey and it took a bit of time to get going and to get on the same page.

“Eddie coming back cranked up the pressure a little more and got everyone interested in us again.

“We went on a remarkable run to get in the mix and, when we started having a bit of a wobble, everyone wrote us off.

“To come back and finish the season the way we did was huge credit to the group and the manager.

“I remember Steve Cook scored a great header to make it 1-0 against Carlisle and Harry drilling one into the bottom corner to put us 2-1 in front after they had pegged us back.

“Fittingly, Brett Pitman got the third. He came in and made such a huge impact. He was one of the top scorers in the division even though he didn’t play the first few months. It was great for him to seal a victory which meant so much to everybody.

“It was a bit weird after the game because of the late kick-off involving Brentford. Everyone stayed around and I remember hanging around by the kit room waiting for that game to finish.

“For me, it was a massive sigh of relief. The gamble of dropping down from the Championship to try to get out of League One had paid off.

“And having spent 16 months out injured before I moved to Bournemouth made it a little more special for me.”

Arter netted eight goals during the season and was the first Cherries player to score in Howe’s first game in charge, a 3-1 win over Tranmere Rovers.

He told afcb.co.uk: “I have such fond memories of the Carlisle game, purely because it was massive and the first time I had tasted promotion.

“To be honest, I think most of the lads were a bit surprised we had got into this position, especially with the way the season had started.

“It was an unbelievable feeling. Reaching the Premier League a couple of years later probably eclipsed it but we didn’t know that was going to happen at the time.

“I remember saying to Eddie when we clinched the second promotion that it didn’t feel as good as the first one which might sound a bit strange.

“I think it was because of the group of players and the journey that everybody had been on. The club and the supporters had experienced some really tough times and I think that’s what made it so special.

“From the moment Eddie came back, it was just pure positivity. It was so infectious. It filtered through to the players and that clearly showed on the pitch.

“When you look back at some of the results we had at the start of that season, you scratch your head. We had lots of players in that team who went on to play in the Premier League.

“We were struggling and that’s why Eddie deserves so much credit for coming in and galvanising the squad. It just goes to show what confidence can do for a group of players.

“The atmosphere changed and the quality of the players eventually shone through. He created a nice environment to play and that’s what was so strong about us.

“I was still quite young then and it was a great achievement on my personal journey. To do it with those players, those fans and Eddie and Jason and all their staff was brilliant.”

Boss Howe addressed the crowd after the final whistle had sounded against the Cumbrians before being mobbed by a group of supporters as he left the stadium later.

At the time, Howe told the media: “The reaction of the supporters and of the town had a huge impact on me. There was nothing better than seeing everybody happy and the reaction of the players to achieving success.

“It means an awful lot to me. I watched the club as a boy and used to come to games regularly so to have played a small part in the club’s history means a great deal to me and my family.

“This is a big moment. I never thought I would see Bournemouth in the Championship, especially when you think back to the dark days of a few years ago when the club was on the brink of going out of business and out of the Football League.

"These are special days to see it where it is now and how strong it seems off the pitch. It is special for me because I am a Bournemouth supporter. I have lived in the area for a long time and have always had a special relationship with the club.

“There are a lot of great people who work behind the scenes, people who have been here a long time.

"People who are involved with the club stay attached for a long period of time and I think that says a lot about the club and the players.”

Click here to see our gallery of pictures from the big day.

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