AWARDS? KEEP ‘EM, WE JUST WANT TO GO

CHER­RIES’ ARTER HAS SOLE FO­CUS:

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

BOURNEMOUTH’S Harry Arter couldn’t care less that the Cher­ries were over­looked in the Cham­pi­onship Player of the Year awards. Though striker Cal­lum Wil­son has scored 22 goals since his £3m move from Coven­try and fly­ing winger Matt Ritchie played a part in 27 more, nei­ther man even made the cut for last week’s glit­ter­ing bash at The Brew­ery in Lon­don.

In­stead, they were over­looked in favour of Mid­dles­brough’s Pa­trick Bamford, Ip­swich’s Daryl Mur­phy, and Wat­ford’s Troy Deeney.

But ahead of to­mor­row’s vi­tal clash at home against Bolton, Arter – who has him­self net­ted eight times from mid­field – says there is only one prize that mat­ters.

“No­body here was dis­ap­pointed,” in­sists Arter. “This team has never been about in­di­vid­u­als. It’s about what we do to­gether – play­ing an at­tack­ing brand of foot­ball, some­thing that is en­joy­able for peo­ple to watch.

Prize

“I’m gen­uinely pleased for Pa­trick and the other lads. They’ve all done re­ally well. But you can keep your in­di­vid­ual awards – the ul­ti­mate prize is pro­mo­tion. And if we win th­ese next two games, that will be ours.”

Wat­ford booked one of the two au­to­matic pro­mo­tion spots yes­ter­day and Bournemouth are now hot favourites to join them. With a bet­ter goal dif­fer­ence than third-placed Mid­dles­brough, victory against Bolton will ef­fec­tively seal pro­mo­tion with a game to spare.

What is cer­tain is that the Cher­ries have spent more time at the top of the ta­ble than any other side in the di­vi­sion, fin­ish­ing 22 games at the sum­mit.

Ed­die Howe’s men have also scored more goals (92) than any­one else and shipped fewer (45) than ev­ery side ex­cept Mid­dles­brough. Best is a sub­jec­tive term, but most ob­servers would cer­tainly ad­mit they are the Cham­pi­onship’s most ex­pan­sive and at­tack­ing out­fit.

Which is re­mark­able for a side that just five years ago played in League Two, has never tasted top-flight foot­ball and even now at­tract gates of barely 10,000.

“Based on his­tory and size, I’m sure you’d have looked at the top four and thought ‘Bournemouth are the ones who’ll fade away’,” says Arter, 25. “That has fu­elled us, but I wouldn’t say it was the ma­jor fac­tor. It was hav­ing a bunch of hon­est lads with a bit more tal­ent than peo­ple per­haps re­alised.

“It’s no fluke. We’ve been top for the ma­jor­ity of the time. Be­tween Novem­ber and now, no­body has been there more than us.

Con­sis­tency

“About De­cem­ber time, we had some quite tough games – the kind we might have lost the year be­fore.

“But we showed a lot of con­sis­ten- cy, not just in the re­sults but in the way we played. We dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion, we had more shots. We played re­ally, re­ally well and prob­a­bly at that time we ac­tu­ally thought ‘Yeah, we could stay the dis­tance here’.

“We had a bad run a cou­ple of months ago and thought we were out of it. Now we’re 11 or 12 games un­beaten so we do have a bit of con­sis­tency.

“We just need to keep in mind

what got us here – be­lief, at­tack­ing foot­ball and hard work.”

Ex­pe­ri­ence

This time five years ago, Arter – who won his first call up to the Repub­lic of Ire­land squad in March – was a 20-year-old kid scrab­bling in the muck and net­tles of Con­fer­ence South with Wok­ing af­ter be­ing re­leased by Charl­ton.

“It was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of men’s foot­ball,” he re­calls. “And as much as the stan­dard was lower, I ac­tu­ally en­joyed ev­ery sin­gle minute.

“They were semi-pro, so it was a few days on, a few days off. You had to be per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing pro­fes­sional stan­dards. That helped me ma­ture and ac­tu­ally made me the player I am to­day.”

And he’s not the only rags-toriches story at the Gold­sands, with the likes of Simon Fran­cis and Marc Pugh sur­vivors from the days when Bournemouth sat pen­ni­less and hope­less at the foot of League Two.

“If I can fin­ish the sea­son by go­ing up, it’ll be an un­be­liev­able jour­ney and some­thing I look back on with a lot of pride,” says Arter.

“And I hope younger play­ers ev­ery­where, es­pe­cially at the lower lev­els, will take con­fi­dence and be­lief from what we’ve done – that if they work hard and keep be­liev­ing, they can get to the high­est level.

“I think there are only three or four play­ers in our en­tire squad who have Pre­mier League ex­pe­ri­ence and plenty who were here in the League One and Two days. That’s credit to Ed­die Howe for the work he’s put in but it also shows the abil­ity was al­ways there.”

Bolton boss Neil Len­non, mean­while, has warned that his men will rel­ish play­ing the party-poop­ers at a sell-out Gold­sands.

“We are an af­ter­thought in this fix­ture and I don’t like that,” said Len­non, whose side lie safely in 17th af­ter an­other lack­lus­tre cam­paign.

“All the talk has been about Bournemouth, and that will suit us. We want to give them a bloody nose and we’ll go there to make life very dif­fi­cult for them.

“There’ll be a lot of ner­vous ten­sion around the ground and the longer the game stays level, the tenser it will get. Some of those Bournemouth play­ers haven’t been in that po­si­tion be­fore so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how they han­dle it.

Tem­per­a­ment

“I do think they’re the best foot­balling side in the di­vi­sion, the eas­i­est on the eye. They’ve cer­tainly scored a lot of goals. But it takes more than that to win ti­tles. You need the right tem­per­a­ment. To­mor­row night will show us whether they have that.”

And Len­non says bad boys Barry Ban­nan and Neil Danns will be back in con­tention af­ter apol­o­gis­ing for breaching the club’s code of con­duct. The pair were fined two-weeks wages and left out of the squad for last week’s game against Brent­ford af­ter abus­ing ho­tel staff fol­low­ing an all-night drink­ing ses­sion.

“They did some­thing wrong, they crossed the line, and they’ve been heav­ily pun­ished for it,” said Len­non. “We’ve also put a marker down for the rest of the squad that be­hav­iour like that won’t be tol­er­ated. But we’ve drawn a line un­der that and they will be in con­tention for Mon­day.”

PIC­TURE: Pin­na­cle

MID­FIELD MAE­STRO: Harry Arter has played a big part in Bournemouth’s suc­cess this term In­sets: Cal­lum Wil­son scores, be­low left, and Matt Ritchie cel­e­brates LEADER: Ed­die Howe has mas­ter­minded Bournemouth’s charge

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