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FAN FOCUS: Vital Bournemouth Talk SAFC v AFCB

Vital Bournemouth editor Dave stopped by at Roker Report towers to talk ahead of this weekend's game at the Stadium of Light, which sees two sides at the lower end of the table compete to get another step away from the threat of relegation.

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Although it would be very easy to brush past this particular fixture a victory for either side could be vital when it comes to survival. For Sunderland a win would bring us just three points behind Bournemouth, whilst a Bournemouth win would send you around ten points behind what I think will be enough to stay safe – thirty-seven points – with fifteen games left to play. How important do you feel it is that you win this game?

With the way this season is going, with a lot of teams taking points away from each other, I think it'll take more than point per game to avoid relegation this season, but I have limited knowledge on the fight at the bottom of the Premier League.

On to the weekend - and after taking the three points at home to Norwich, who are also down in the mix with yourselves and AFC Bournemouth - it would be very nice to pick up another win and put a bit of distance between ourselves and the bottom three. But, for the exact same reasons as you mention, it's just as important not to surrender three points to Sunderland. A win is important, but it's not as important as avoiding defeat.

If you could take one player from Sunderland, who would it be and why?

As I'm a bit sentimental I'd bring Jermain Defoe back to Dean Court.

I'm not sure how he would fit in a side alongside the likes of Callum Wilson, Benik Afobe or Lewis Grabban, but he was brilliant when we had him on loan fifteen years ago. The excitement around the old Dean Court ground every time he got on the ball was incredible. It felt like everyone believed he could score every time he got the ball, and for a while that proved to be the case when he scored thirteen goals in his first twelve appearances, scoring in ten consecutive games.

He was clearly a special player with a natural eye for goal and it was no surprise to see him in and around the England team only a few years later. In truth he should have had more of a chance at international level but it never seemed to work out for him.

I have to admit, I thought when so many Bournemouth players went down injured at the start of the season that it would be the kick in the balls that would see you struggle, but you’ve done anything but. Credit where credit is due – do you fancy your chances of staying up?

I think everyone with the exception of Aston Villa probably feel like they fancy their chances in this Premier League season. Newcastle have shown in spurts that they can string results together and have the ability to pull clear. Swansea have a new head coach, so they could see an upturn in results, and Norwich have strengthened over the January transfer window.

For Sunderland I think your run of games in February will be telling - pick up points during that run of fixtures and you may well pull clear.

AFC Bournemouth have settled in to the Premier League well and we've shown we shouldn't feel out of place - as you mention we've had to adapt, losing the likes of Callum Wilson and Maxi Gradel with long term injuries, and it saw us change our style a little. Our passing football suits the Premier League and with new signings such as Benik Afobe and Lewis Grabban we will hopefully now add more goals to our game.

Talk me through paying eight million pounds for Lewis Grabban…

He left the Cherries for three million pounds in 2014 after Norwich had triggered a release clause in his contract. During his time with us, whilst not being the most clinical finisher, he scored a record number of goals for us in the second tier (twenty-two in forty-four appearances). His work rate was exceptional, he fitted into the side well, can play in a two man strike-force, the lone role or out wide and he was seemingly very popular amongst the squad.

He returns to a side where the majority of that same squad remain, so there are no risks with this transfer as you know he will be a positive addition to the changing room and he will be able to fit into the side easily without a period of adjustment. I feel that is crucial when we are desperate for an immediate impact during the second half of the season.

There were also suggestions that there might well have been a sell on clause in his contract and as we sold him to them, that amount could, if true, hypothetically also be removed from the fee. Once you look at the net cost that is likely to have been paid up front with the rest in instalments, you're looking at a fee closer to that of what you paid for Danny Graham.

Eddie Howe – the right man at the right club, or is he inevitably going to end up at a ‘top four’ side one day?

Eddie Howe and AFC Bournemouth are obviously the perfect fit. He was coming through the youth team ranks before he even became a teenager. He was destined to be an excellent top flight centre half and had been called up to the England Under 21's squad whilst with the Cherries, something that up until recently with Callum Wilson had been unheard of.

A knee injury soon after he joined Portsmouth meant he was never the same player again, but the fans raised money to bring him back to AFC Bournemouth and he played on for a number of years before being forced to retire before he hit his thirties. Thrown into a life of management by crippling financial problems at a time when AFC Bournemouth's future was on the line, at the foot of the fourth tier, Howe led us to avoid relegation to the Conference and probably extinction despite the seventeen point deduction and still being ten points adrift when he took the job on a permanent basis in the January of that season.

As we like to call him, he is the Special One, but without all the pompous aggression of a certain Portuguese manager. He seems destined to go on to bigger clubs than AFC Bournemouth, as he is meticulous with his work and is an excellent coach who can develop players and improve them year on year, but whether or not a ‘top four’ side would have the confidence and foresight to employ him rather than an overrated and probably more fashionable manager? Who knows.

What are your memories of playing Sunderland in the past?

There aren't many! Until this season when Matt Ritchie scored that wonder goal at Dean Court, I couldn't recall watching Sunderland before. According to the statistics the meetings before that I was under the age of ten.

Who should Sunderland be particularly fearful of on Saturday?

Record signing Benik Afobe has slotted into the lone striker role up front seamlessly. At twenty-two years of age, he has everything - pace, strength, power, link-up play and is an aerial threat. He scored his first goal against Norwich on Saturday and he could well be about to go on a little goal spree – who knows.

Similarly, who do you think Bournemouth should watch out for?

Once again I can't look past Jermain Defoe, especially now under a manager who plays him up front, through the middle and on the shoulder of the defence. I have no doubt he will be on the scoresheet.

Finally, can you give a score prediction please?


It won't finish goalless! If there are more than two goals, I fancy AFC Bournemouth for the win.