Fans split on benefit of match
4 July ~ Bournemouth fans had been primed for a dull few months this summer. Even before the League One promotion celebrations had fully died down we were warned that there would be few new arrivals and more than a bit of squad pruning to get the club in line with the Championship's Financial Fair Play rules. So when Norwich City centre-back Elliott Ward joined on a free transfer and teenager Sam Matthews signed his first professional contract this was about as exciting as it was expected to get on the south coast.
But the announcement on Tuesday afternoon that Bournemouth had arranged a home friendly against Real Madrid has managed to create a fair bit of noise, and not just in the local press.
"Glamour tie" might be an overused phrase to describe any match with a big club but playing the nine-time winners of the European Cup in their first pre-season game surely qualifies. Not that this is the first time that Dean Court has hosted overseas European champions – a Steaua Bucharest team featuring Gheorghe Hagi visited in February 1990 in what was billed as a "mid-season friendly".
The Bournemouth Echo reported that Madrid will not just be jetting in directly to Bournemouth Airport but the "70-strong delegation" will also be staying in a local hotel – making it sound a bit like one of those trade missions David Cameron is keen on. Good luck getting a room with a sea view in July, the stag dos and hen parties will have booked all of those up months ago.
But if co-chairman Eddie Mitchell had been expecting universal praise for arranging this match then he hadn't reckoned with the querulous nature of the average Bournemouth fan, nor the fact that the £60 charge for those without season tickets would be seen as extortionate for a non-competitive match. Immediate opinion is split between die-hard refuseniks saying they wouldn't pay 60 sheets for any friendly and the other side's argument being summed up by one poster: "Real Madrid eh? Let the good times roll!"
There are no guarantees that any of the Spanish team's big-name players will feature or for how long (although it's been stated only those who participated at the Confederations Cup definitely won't be there) but the game will sell out. Even with stubborn regulars staying away there will be enough interest generated to ensure a full house for the match and presumably a profit for everyone involved.
This fixture either proves Bournemouth's ambition or reinforces the impression that the people running the club have ideas above our station. One of our early season opponents should also serve as a warning about the downsides of flighty oligarch funding: Bournemouth face Portsmouth in the League Cup on August 6 with our south-coast rivals now two divisions below us. Simon Melville