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Features

Stoke, Defoe & a team still remembered

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

A late-October defeat away at Stoke City 20 years ago doesn't sound like fertile ground for the start of a still-cherished sequence.

Now over two decades on from that match, a 2-1 Second Division loss, and with Saturday marking the latest trip to the Potteries, we take a look back at a date, debut and team that have gone on to play a role in the club's history larger than could possibly have been predicted at the time.

The Cherries were two goals down approaching the break when the most unexpected of touchpapers was suddenly lit.

A towering header from the smallest man on the pitch, an 18-year-old making his league debut, changed not just the team talk but the remainder of the campaign that followed.

"Jermain Defoe inspired the easiest half-time team talk I've ever given," said the side's manager Sean O'Driscoll in 2017.

"He'd been with us 24 hours when we were away at Stoke, and in the first half he hit the post and scored a goal.

"He was an absolute handful. I walked into the dressing room and just said, 'Give him the ball'."

His feet found, Defoe would memorably go on to strike in ten straight games, at the time thought to be a post-war record - all in his first ten Football League appearances.

The scoring run coincided with the side's rise up the rankings, which threatened a historic promotion before being cruelly snatched away two minutes short of the final whistle in the final fixture.

One of the side's key players, Richard Hughes spoke about the season and the teenage marksman to the official club podcast in November.

"That was a good team, but we were third from bottom before Jermain came in on loan," he recalled.

"Eddie Howe says the run started with his comeback from injury, he was back in the team and Jermain made his debut at Stoke.

"We were beaten 2-1 because someone missed a penalty - that was me! - but it was a really good team and I still can't explain how we didn't see that game out at Reading."

That game at Reading. Needing to win on the final day to make the play-offs, the rampant visitors were 3-1 up at half time thanks to a brace from Wade Elliott and, well, you can guess the other scorer, Defoe notching his 19th of the campaign against the Royals.

However, with 18 minutes to go, nerves got twitchy when Darren Caskey pulled one back and Nicky Forster woke the Cherries from their promotin dream with an equaliser in the 88th minute.

There was still time for Stephen Purches to hit the crossbar as Bournemouth chased the win they needed, but it wasn't to be for the side who finished a wafer behind Wigan as the seventh-place side.

As for Defoe, he returned to West Ham and made his Premier League debut 14 days later.

The striker remains the competition's eighth highest all-time scorer with 162 goals, won 57 England caps and aged 38 is currently helping to fire Rangers to what would be a first Scottish title since 2011.

Where are they now?

A common journalistic story is to ask where the team on a certain day have ended up, and in the case of that match at Stoke the answer is generally, not far away from Dean Court.

Of the ten players who started alongside Defoe at Stoke in the third tier, eight currently coach or work behind the scenes with Bournemouth, Claus Jorgensen is coaching in Denmark and the other is the club's most successful manager. 

Saturday 28th October 2000 - Stoke City 2-1 AFC Bournemouth

Goalkeeper Gareth Stewart Assistant first team goalkeeping coach
Defender Jason Tindall Manager
Defender Eddie Howe Former manager
Defender Warren Cummings U13 lead coach
Midfielder Claus Jorgensen  
Midfielder Stephen Purches Assistant manager
Midfielder Richard Hughes First team technical director
Midfielder Carl Fletcher Loan player manager
Striker James Hayter Youth Development Phase, assistant coach
Striker Jermain Defoe  
Striker Steve Fletcher Assistant first team coach

Midfielder Hughes discussed how far the side could have gone with that almost-grasped result at Reading, spearheaded by their teenage sensation Defoe up front. 

"We came seventh in the end and missed out, that's why Reading treated that final game so seriously," he said.

"They were third in the league at the time so would have played us, they wouldn't have enjoyed that and I think Jermain would have found a way to put them to the sword again and we would have got to the Championship.

"As it transpired we had to wait nine more years for that."

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