Bournemouth are widely tipped as favourites for relegation when the Premier League season began back in August.
But despite a smaller budget, a 13,000 seater stadium and a manager with little Premier League experience, the Cherries have over-succeeded in their debut Premier League season.
His players all but secured their top-flight status for another season with a vital 3-2 home win over Swansea City last weekend and the clubs’ supporters must be wandering whether they could sneak a top-ten finish with only a handful of games left to play.
But as well as the players have performed, there is always a brain behind any good footballing operation and at Bournemouth, that job falls to Eddie Howe.
To say he is Bournemouth through and through is an understatement. He played over 220 games for the Cherries as a defender and is now in his second spell managing the club closest to his heart. At 38, he is the youngest manager in the Premier League but his inexperience is counting for nothing as his side have shone in their maiden Premier League season.
Bournemouth have taken 38 points from 30 games, and are only two points away from the elusive “40 point safety marker”, which is generally what is needed to stay up. But it is the way in which they have won games that has impressed their supporters, and fans around the country.
When Callum Wilson was ruled out for the season with a cruel injury sustained near the start of the season, many began to write the Cherries off right away. Josh King has scored goals whilst Benik Afobe, Max Gradel, Lewis Grabban, Glenn Murray and Matt Ritchie have all pitched in too. It was a moment that could have defined Bournemouth’s season but credit where credit is due, they haven’t let it effect them and have recruited duly to replace their star man.
It’s also worth remembering that Callum Wilson was performing extremely well before he was injured and probably would have been in with a shout for the England team had his form continued, and that was all down to Bournemouth.
It’s interesting to look at Eddie Howe’s views after the Swansea game too – despite everything, he’s still not getting ahead of himself and with games still to go, he is intent on improving Bournemouth’s league standing even more.
“There’s a satisfaction at the end and you can look back and thing that was a nice moment in hindsight but when you’re in it, at that second, there’s too much at stake to really sit back and enjoy it,” he said after their victory over Swansea City.
And that view is what is most commendable about Bournemouth’s season. The 13-point cushion between the Cherries and the relegation zone has allowed Howe to breathe a little easier than some of his fellow managers but despite their relative safety, he still won’t take his foot of the gas and allow his team to coast to the end of the season.
If he keeps it up and with Callum Wilson back to fitness next month, the Cherries have every right to be optimistic for the very near future. Leicester City? Eat your hearts out.