21 January ~ Bournemouth fans reacted with a mixture of anger and sadness when popular manager Eddie Howe left the club last week to take over at Burnley but there is compensation. Not long ago, Bournemouth were heading for the Conference and Burnley the Premier League. Howe produced a remarkable turnaround, saving then getting promoted a club dogged by debts and a transfer embargo into League One, where Bournemouth are contenders for another unlikely promotion.
Some fans were disgruntled as Howe rejected Crystal Palace only to join Burnley days later but most supporters understood. This season, Howe’s two best strikers, Brett Pittman and Josh McQuoid, have been sold and he has been offered possibly four other jobs before taking up Burnley’s offer. Now he rejoins former Bournemouth team-mate Wade Elliott at a club that made a record £14.4 million pre-tax profit in 2009-10 and has nearly £50m in parachute payments coming after last season’s relegation from the Premier League.
Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell insists he does not want to sell players and would make cash available after Pittman and McQuoid went, but there have been no new arrivals. Now Lee Bradbury has taken over as temporary manager and the club are in no hurry to find a replacement, which is hardly surprising. Bradbury and his assistant Steve Fletcher are players and already on the payroll – appointing a permanent manager would simply cost more.
And with a temporary manager in the dugout, will Mitchell, the majority shareholder and a well-known local property developer, sanction buying players? Previously, he had a transfer embargo and debts as an excuse. When he took control with Adam Murry in June 2009, the club owed around £1.7m and he insisted the club trade itself out of debt.
A year ago, debts were down to £800,000 and the club reputedly operated at a profit. They cleared debts owed to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs by putting season tickets on sale early at discounted prices and by July 2010, Mitchell claimed debts were £300,000. The embargo has gone and last October, Mitchell said that Bournemouth could be debt free by the end of the month after putting on sale tickets for the keenly awaited home league game with Southampton in March.
No more statements have been forthcoming but Bournemouth are surely having an influx of cash. Crowds for most home games this season top 6,000 – the last game against Plymouth was 7,600 – and then there’s the transfer money. No figures are confirmed but Bristol City are estimated to have paid between £600,000 and £800,000 for Pittman. Millwall paid around half a million for McQuoid, whose contract would have expired this summer, and the compensation for Howe from Burnley is reportedly more than £300,000.
The figures for players are based on appearances but contrast that with fees paid out. Players have come in, most on free transfers with the £100,000 to Hereford for Marc Pugh is the only sizeable deal. Bournemouth fans could be forgiven for asking where the rest of the money has gone. Steve Menary