Opposition View: Cherries Red Army
Ahead of our game against A.F.C Bournemouth at Kenilworth Road this Saturday (15th January), we spoke to Keith Thomas at CherriesRedArmy for his perspective from the opposition camp.
Tell us a bit about you and your Cherries supporting background...
My name is Keefy T from the Cherries Red Army. I've been a supporter since 2005, since the heady days of Sean O'Driscoll.
You're currently sat top and have seemingly come through a tough patch of form. How do you rate your season so far?
Since Scott Parker took over in the summer, while our league position is obviously encouraging, it has been an emotional rollercoaster up until now, with some excellent performances against Huddersfield, Barnsley, Bristol City, and Swansea. However, there have been some poor results scattered in our run, with Hull, Peterborough, and Blackpool being disappointing and toothless draws, and Derby, Preston NE, Blackburn, and Middlesbrough being torrid, languid losses. This season is showing how tough the Championship is, and there are many dangerous teams that can damage our chances for the automatic spot. What looked like nailed on certainties to coast to promotion, the brutal reality of football can wipe away any complacency, as we discovered in December.
It was quite a statement to take Scott Parker from your promotion rivals Fulham last summer, what's the general feeling amongst the Cherries' fanbase about him as manager?
The supporters have broadly speaking supported Parker since coming to the South Coast, and we recognize that like a certain iconic former manager that came before, Scott has the potential to be a great manager, with an attractive footballing philosophy and old-school manager look that we have grown to love. Like Eddie Howe, he speaks well of the game but can be prone to bouts of ‘pragmatism’ that have sometimes been our undoing, with Blackpool and Coventry being the case in point. The ‘Bournemouth Way’, at least from the average supporters' point of view, has always focused on playing easy on the eye, attractive football played on the deck, so the switch to the 4-3-3 has been very much welcomed. However at times, sometimes due to enforced changes from COVID or injury, we have reverted in-game to a more conservative 4-2-3-1 to see out a result. These critical moments have seen leads slip away, and we do have a target on our backs. We are now under no illusion that a team like Luton, at the fantastic Kenilworth Road, the scene of many a battle that oldies like me remember with fondness, will be not taking this game lightly.
Being top of the league obviously means you've got lots of quality players, but who would you say your "One to Watch" is?
We have firepower, lots of firepower. This has come in with the pleasing additions to our squad, some from very left-field places. Jordan Zemura, Jaidon Anthony and Mark Travers are rightly catching the eye with their tremendous partnership and solid goalkeeping, along with some other Academy Graduates like Gavin Kilkenny and Zeno Ibsen Rossi prove we are producing excellent youth players. Experienced hands like Gary Cahill give us a much-needed wise old head to steady the ship, providing a fantastic mentor for Lloyd Kelly and Chris Mepham. For me, however, the form of Dom Solanke has been outstanding, and he is fast becoming the quintessential modern forward, powerful with an excellent touch, versatile in attack and a lethal finish, and is proving that at 24, he is well on his way to being at the peak of his powers. Philip Billing is another dangerous character and has transformed into a versatile playmaker in the attacking 8/10 role and the midfield creative threat, as well as a maturing leader on the pitch, while the destructive qualities of Jefferson Lerma, a true midfield general, provide us with much-needed steel in the middle of the park. Add in the mercurial talent of Ryan Christie and depth provided by Jamal Lowe, Emiliano Marcondes, and Ethan Laird, we are as powerful as anybody on their day.
Luton went to the Vitality Stadium in September and left empty-handed despite a spirited second-half performance, what did you make of the Hatters in the previous fixture?
The Hatters gave us a tough game last time we met at our place, and I’ll expect Nathan Jones’s team to provide us with another hard-fought afternoon. Like everybody else, including ourselves, Luton has been inconsistent this season, but their amazing rise from non-league football continues to impress. The key to this is the working partnership between Nathan Jones and CEO Gary Sweet, who are putting together a really tantalizing long term sustainable project that has seen Luton's stock rightfully grow, showing that being a sensible club in the market, and having the long term goal of a new ground and a fan base fully behind the vision, can really bear fruit. I for one see another well-run club following in the same footsteps of Brighton and Brentford in mixing it up in the promised land of the PL in the not too distant future, and it helps by having experienced football men like Mick Harford and Paul Hart, along with former Forest midfielder Chris Cohen in the back room, give the likes of Elijah Adebayo, Admiral Muskwe and Allan Campbell a real guiding hand in their development.
Jones has put together a squad of youth and experience to provide a nice balance in the side, able to give a threat to any team who is not Johnny on the spot and playing their A-game. Of course, Cherries fans will be keeping a steely eye on Harry Cornick while Jack Stacey will no doubt get a warm reception, as well as players like Adebayo and Lansbury showing off their talent. If there is one team you could tip to suddenly make that late run into the playoffs, then a betting man couldn’t do any worse than the lads from Bedfordshire.
Time for some predictions - who do you think will (i) get automatic promotion, (ii) make the playoffs, and (iii) get relegated?
1. AFC Bournemouth
3. West Brom
22. Derby (only just!)
Finally, give us your score prediction for Saturday's game...
A tight 1-0 to the Cherries.
With thanks to CherriesRedArmy. Find them at @Cherriesredarmy (Twitter) or cherriesredarmy (Instagram) for more.