Consistency and loyalty are hard things to find in football, and a combination of the both is typically a recipe for success. On the south soast Bournemouth were riding the crest of a wave under Eddie Howe, having been promoted to the Premier League in 2015. However, when his original crop of players approached the autumn of their careers, and some abject spending led to a dip in form, it sparked the end of Howe’s eight-year tenure at the Vitality Stadium, as well as Bournemouth’s run in the top flight in 2020.
Finding a suitable replacement was always going to be an arduous task. Having seen the good work of Scott Parker at Fulham, who was relegated but worked to the best of his abilities with a limited squad, the Cherries certainly took a risk in employing the former Chelsea and Tottenham man, but Parker seemed to tick all the right boxes — a young, hungry coach with fresh ideas and the right football ideology.
Despite tasting relegation at Craven Cottage, Parker had instilled the right ethos on his side and it dully paid in short periods, having won at Anfield at the turn of the year. However, his players really lacked the consistency and tactical awareness to implement that style on a regular basis. By no means was the side terrible, with the likes of Alphonse Areola and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the dressing room, but the defensive issues and lack of a cutting edge in the early stages of the season really came back to bite Parker and his staff.
Bournemouth have always wanted to play football the right way. They were a breath of fresh air in their initial top flight seasons, regularly upsetting odds when you bet online with Paddy Power. Having narrowly missed out on a place at Wembley last season with a play-off semi-final defeat to Brentford, the pressure would be on Parker from the word go.
But the Championship is a whole other kettle of fish. Arguably the most competitive division in Europe on a regular basis, Parker’s approach with one of the more talented sides in the league would have to be different, as the Cherries would be seeing more of the ball than the majority of opponents. You wouldn’t be able to tell there was pressure on Parker though, as the Cherries are cruising so far and look on course for automatic promotion.
The main thing that has changed is how much sturdier the defence is. Gary Cahill arrived after his contact at Crystal Palace expired and brings with him a plethora of experience and trophies including two Premier League titles and a Champions League.
The solidarity at the back has allowed for a fifteen-match unbeaten streak, before a loss to Preston, as the Cherries quest for top flight football at the second time of asking is becoming more of a reality. But Parker has insisted that record didn’t motivate him: “I’m not too bothered about records. This division is long,’ said Parker. “But it is no mean feat to do what we’ve done. I’m very proud.”