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Bournemouth v Watford, 20/12/97
Desailly plays for Bournemouth
By Matt Rowson

In the middle of last week, I was reminded of just how much truth there was in the adage that there is too much football around these days.... too much for the players, too much for the supporters wallets. The game in question was so completely irrelevant and woefully far from what football is all about that even I, a self-confessed football junkie, had to concede that you can have too much of a good thing, that certain competitions just aren't worth the effort. The Champions League really is a heap of shit, isn't it ?

I'll pick up this thread again later...

Marcel Desailly plays for Bournemouth. This may come of a surprise to regular Sunday lunchtime Channel 4 viewers who have seen him play for Milan... the fact is, of course, that the 18 hours-or-so between games finishing in England and starting in Italy is more than enough time to get from Dean Court to the San Siro. The similarity between Bournemouth and Milan's black and red stripes cannot be a coincidence... clearly Marcel built this into his last contract at Bournemouth to negate the need for him to change on the plane.

He doesn't go by the name Desailly at Dean Court, of course... "Ian Cox" is far less conspicuous, with the result that I seem to have been the only one to rumble him thus far, but the party's over Marcel. Your cover is blown.

For the sake of argument, let's call him Cox. He played absolute blinders in both our games against the Cherries last season, and it's perhaps indicative of the weaknesses of the Premiership's obsession with "cheap" foreign talent that Bournemouth have held on to him for so long.

Cox forms part of a very solid rearguard at Dean Court. Jimmy Glass, the keeper, seems to have improved in composure beyond recognition since our game at Bournemouth at the start of last season, when the Cherries fan I was sat next to glumly informed me that the keeper's nickname was "Hands of" (think about it). He was unanimously nominated as "Man of the Match" in Bournemouth's cup victory over Bristol City. Jamie Vincent, like Glass and Cox an ex-Palace player, is another talented player to look out for at the back.

There's no shortage of ability in midfield either, despite the recent sale of Matt Holland (to Ipswich). However, a serious injury to ex-member of the Red Filth Russell Beardsmore, in addition to the suspension of John Bailey for bookings accrued leaves the Cherries weak in this department, leading to the club being linked with a couple of possible loan signings as cover... Neil Heaney at Manchester City, and ex-Bournemouth star Scott Mean from West Ham are two names to have been mentioned.

Up front is where Bournemouth have their biggest problems.... the failure to sign Jimmy Quinn as player-coach from Peterborough must have been a blow. One of Bournemouth's goalscoring heroes of the past, of course, is Luther Blissett. I bought a copy of a Bournemouth fanzine a few years back, shortly before the appointment of Mel Machin, in which the results of a poll conducted amongst Bournemouth fans nominated Luther as the man Cherries fans most wanted appointed to the hotseat.

Machin's spell in charge has, of course, been subject to crippling financial restrictions... nonetheless he was less than popular earlier in his reign. I remember a friend relating how in a post-party analysis of what people would do if they won the lottery jackpot, a girl with no previously revealed footballing inclinations pronounced that she would buy Bournemouth and sack Machin.

Nonetheless, Machin has done an incredible job with the resources (not) at his disposal, and it is particularly gratifying to see Bournemouth in such a secure League position now following the tribulations of last season. I am regretfully ignorant of the current financial situation, but 75,000 received from Sky for the FA Cup game can only help.

Which brings me back to (or towards) my opening comments. There has been a fair amount of coverage afforded to the plight of lower division clubs recently in the face of the affluence of the Premiership. The Panorama documentary was depressing, if only for it's inability to spot any chance of a realistic solution. The statistic regarding the damage inflicted on Lincoln City's crowds by the clash with a live Sky game was particularly shocking.

The thing is, as long as there are heart-warming stories of the success of fan-power like that at Bournemouth (or Northampton, or Brighton) you can't help but feel that football clubs WILL survive at this level. That's no reason to be complacent of course, but certainly grounds for hope.

Two points to finish with. On Saturday a caller to 606, a Tottenham fan (understandably) distraught at his side's plight, closed with the lament "We've got to spend loads of money". As long as there are idiots around with more cash than intelligence, clubs like Bournemouth will always be in with a chance. Trevor Senior, anyone ?

Finally, I heard the comment somewhere over the weekend that the coming of Digital Television will be the death knell for the lower divisions. The evidence provided by the Lincoln example mentioned earlier is not a good sign, but I know that I for one will always enjoy watching Watford whichever Division we happen to be in, and I'm not about to give it up and watch the Red Filth (or whoever) on the Telly just because I'm being force-fed the notion that that's what I want to do.

This is a column written by an obsessive, largely for obsessives. But on the off-chance that there is one armchair fan reading this, I would URGE you to get along to your local side, be it Watford, Bournemouth or whoever else, and remind yourself how good football tastes when consumed fresh instead of pre-packed in plastic from the supermarket.

End of rant.