Date: 1 December 2007
Following the Cherries becomes more and more depressing. Morale within the team has gone, morale amongst supporters has gone, and respect between the two groups has all but disappeared. The fans defied time-honoured tradition, that says they should spend the match abusing rival players, supporters and the referee; and instead used all their energies to slag off their own chairman (“Sort it out, Mostyn!”), coach (“We want Bondy out!”) and captain (“Champions league? You’re having a laugh!”). In fact it was the captain, Telfer, who took the most stick and by the end was being booed by Bournemouth fans every time he touched the ball. Is this a world first: supporters booing their own captain, away from home?
But it was thoroughly deserved. Telfer’s distribution as poor as ever, and he was useless in defence (responsible at least in part for both goals Bournemouth conceded); but the idea that he should be captain is laughable. Remember the days when, especially among younger supporters, the team captain was a hero figure? There’s not a single Bournemouth fan who’d choose him to even sit on the bench, let alone wear the armband. Where was he during that recent TV game, when two Bournemouth players were wrangling over who should take a penalty? Isn’t that the sort of thing the captain on the pitch should sort out? And where was he today, when the fans cheered the team onto the pitch at the start of the game? Only Stewart and Cummings (both, tellingly, survivors from the pre-Bond era) came to us and applauded us. At the end a few more players remembered to do so, but not Telfer. Obviously not Telfer - he was probably afraid of more booing!
Why did we applaud any of the team at the end, you may wonder? Well there were some periods of fighting play - the last ten minutes of the first half and the last twenty minutes of the second half, when we were chasing the game. And there were some reasonable individual performances: Hollands bravely putting in an hour’s play despite having a hernia operation one week earlier; Jason Pearce working hard to try and keep his place (as if that will impress Bond!); Pitman looking much better than of late and working very well with Cummings on the left wing after he came on; and Cummings himself - my man of the match even though he’s nowhere near his old self.
The team lined up as a defensive 4-1-4-1, Cooper in front of the back four and Bradbury alone and not supported at all up front. Though it was similar to the line up at Bristol Rovers, the key differences were that Gradel doesn’t have the attacking flair of Henry and no-one in the midfield got forward as Anderton had on that occasion. Of course, the choice of players was largely dictated by some of our squad being injured and some being cup-tied. Hollands lasted an hour and was replaced by Pitman, but we switched then to 4-4-2 with Pitman at left midfield and Kuffour joining Bradbury up front. There was a second substitution at the death, Bartley replacing an apparently injured Kuffour, but there were only seconds left on the clock so there was no chance for me to gain any impression of this player whom I’d never previously watched.
We had gone into the break feeling we might get something from this match, but Millwall’s first goal was scored just five minutes into the second half. A cross came in along the channel Telfer should have been defending, and a Millwall player headed home. Ten minutes later it was 2-0 after a mix-up between Telfer and Holland. Cooper scored for Bournemouth but it didn’t count when, despite a flurry of activity, no-one could get the equaliser. Millwall didn’t play well and, apart from the two goals, didn’t trouble Stewart much. On the strength of today’s play one would assume that both teams are heading towards League Two next season; but a friendly Millwall supporter (in fairness, we met several such) told us later that they remain confident of League One survival because they have some good players due to return to the fold soon. If only we had cause for such optimism in our club. We’re out of all cups, and if we’re to survive in the league we need a change of chairman or coach or captain - or, preferably, all three!
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Telfer (4), Gowling (5), J Pearce (7), Cummings (7);
Gradel (6), Karacan (6), Hollands (6), Kuffour (6);