A few days short of 25 years since Leeds United gained their last promotion to the top flight, AFC Bournemouth – the team we beat that quarter of a century ago to send us up (and them down) – have turned the tables, securing their own place at English football’s top table.
It’s all but mathematically certain – confirmation is a mere formality. For Bournemouth not to be a Premier League side next season, a ridiculous combination of results would be needed – it ain’t gonna happen. Bournemouth are Premier League – and how they deserve it.
The paradox apparent between the Cherries’ fantastic achievement this season, and the Whites triumph on that long-ago May bank holiday afternoon, is one of contrasts and similarities. Then, as now, we beat Bournemouth home and away – back in 1990, our victory at Dean Court secured the Second Division Championship for United; Bournemouth, meanwhile, were condemned by defeat to the drop into the third tier.
This season, it could easily have been Leeds going down as Bournemouth ascended to the Promised Land. Thankfully, things didn’t switch around quite that much. But surely, any Leeds fan watching Bournemouth’s stylish destruction of Bolton Wanderers tonight could not have failed to be impressed by and pleased for a small club that has never before played in the top league. It’s a massive thing for the South coast club – and accomplished in the most exemplary fashion.
Leeds United should take note; this is a small club, but a very well-run one. They have a manager in Eddie Howe who is a round peg in a round hole in that he is obviously happy where he is, benefiting from solid backing and very much in charge of team affairs. Bournemouth even have their own Russian tycoon bankrolling their progress – but this is no Chelski situation where there are billions to chuck around. The Cherries have done it on a budget, done it as a team, done it with style. It’s a blueprint for other clubs of ambition. Leeds can learn from Bournemouth, just as we should have learned from Swansea and Southampton before them.
Leeds United and Bournemouth have had very different seasons; Leeds may have won the battles between the two clubs, but the spoils of a season-long campaign belong very definitely to Watford (who beat us twice) and Eddie Howe’s ebulliently effective, stylishly efficient, irresistible AFC Bournemouth team.
Congratulations to the two promoted sides, and to whoever may join you via the play-offs. May we at Leeds United benefit and prosper by your examples – and may we join you up there sooner rather than later.