As fans of AFC Bournemouth; we have enjoyed a meteoric rise up the leagues together and even this season, the pace of change has perhaps gone unnoticed, but the Cherries are a very different outfit than they were even last May when they won promotion from the Championship to the Premier League.
The expectations of the club have grown enormously in those months, and yet the cleverness of manager Eddie Howe has simply been to focus everyone just on trying to win games. While the defeats came early on and the team had to learn how to cope with that, the positive vibe has stayed with the Cherries even during the difficult periods, and now that the points have been earned, it is interesting to stand back and look at where the club now is.
Far from being shocked by the victories against Manchester United and Chelsea, there is an impulse to believe that the Cherries could have been a lot higher up the table had they been just a bit more fortunate in September and October, when they did not have the rub of the green.
But before AFC Bournemouth can look to become a regular mid-table Premier League side, there is likely to be a change in public perception about Howe’s side and the plucky underdogs tag that still hangs around the club.
Going to away matches with the thousands of fans following the Cherries has made me feel like there is a very pleasant and growing body of support for the club. Bournemouth are liked by the majority of fans as they are probably not seen as a major threat at present, but that may change in seasons to come.
The impact of what the Cherries have already achieved has not really been felt yet. I thought it may start to sink in more during the FA Cup run. I was surprised to hear from a Birmingham City fan on my site that he was not only looking forward to his side taking on Bournemouth, but he was actually relishing it, despite the knowledge that last time at St Andrew’s the Blues were hammered 8-0!
Bournemouth have become a big success story and other clubs want to see if they can now beat the Cherries and go on promotion runs of a similar fashion. Howe and his men have set a precedent and others are keen to know how it has been achieved. Indeed, other clubs up and down the league are looking to see how they can emulate such success and what lessons they can take from it.
The Cherries themselves though are still a work in progress project. Boss Howe has continually stated that he sees his future at this club as long as his relationship with the owner Maxim Demin remains on the same lines. There are new targets being set every day for the talented young manager and there is a sense that the whole club has laid some solid foundations for future growth.
That is why I no longer see a small Dorset football club looking out of place in the Premier League. The future outlook is not devised around a possible return to the Championship, but a club that can regularly compete against the mid-table sides of the Premier League.
It was always going to be about survival in 2015-16, but the story for 2016-17 has not been written yet and aiming to mix it with the best sides in the land is the next step. It is a bigger challenge than the club has had to deal with than rising up the leagues and only excellence in every area will help it to succeed in its ambitions to become a bigger club.
Howe may have played down such expectations this last week, but he knows that the club has to do better year in year out if it is to keep growing.