The reception that Max Gradel received when he ran on to the pitch at Watford back in February having been sidelined for six months was a moment when all AFC Bournemouth fans felt a slight tear to the eye or swallowed deep with pride.
The small figure of Max running out with Josh King to his side was not just a surprise, it was a sign that the Cherries’ were about to rejuvenate their ambitions to stay in the Premier League.
At our south coast club, there is not one player that is put on a pedestal higher than anyone else, but the sum of the parts is certainly stronger when some individuals become available to play. Max is one of those who just adds a bit of magic dust to proceedings and his reappearance has galvanised the team again to do all they can to add more points to their total.
I’ve been impressed by the way Max just takes it all very calmly and makes no fuss about his comeback. Eddie Howe had allowed him to return to the Ivory Coast in a bid to carry out his rehabilitation away from the club. Max was that well trusted by manager Howe, and the result has seen Gradel return bang on schedule.
The winger still feels that he owes something to the fans, but take it from me he doesn’t. Just to see him playing again is great as we can see that he desperately wants to lift the team to safety.
There’s more than that though to be pleased about. Bournemouth have not had many players that have experience of top foreign leagues as well as the English Premier League in the squad. As the club grows, it has been said that more foreign players will need to be found if the Cherries are to compete effectively with many of the larger Premier League sides.
We have already seen Tokelo Rantie find it difficult to make an impression at Dean Court, while Juan Iturbe is on loan from AS Roma and has been hoping to make starts in the Premier League. I feel that it is Iturbe that can benefit from the return of Gradel as he will see the kind of runs he makes and see how Max works to the benefit of the team. It is something that will rub off on the young Argentinian.
The two players are of similar build and they both play on the wings. But Max is used to the hustle and bustle of English football and for Juan, like any foreign player having his first season over here, it is rare for them to find instant success.
What Bournemouth fans have all been waiting for was to see Max score a goal for the team at home and he did just that against Swansea City in our last game. The celebration was special as he went over to hug Howe and all the players were keen to do the same. As soon as Max played against Watford in his comeback game, he started talking about how good it was to be back, but that he wants to add goals to his performance.
It will be fantastic if he can keep doing that, but just with him in the side, the team has been unbeaten and picked up 10 points from their last four games. Let me tell you Max, you are contributing and we are loving every minute of seeing you back in red and black.