Having occupied the Championship’s top-two places in all but eight game-weeks, Bournemouth have had Premier League destiny largely in their own hands for much of the season.
But recent months have seen something of a wobble in form, seemingly at the worst possible time.
A turbulent March saw a defeat to Preston North End and draws with struggling Reading and Peterborough, showing that there’s still room for improvement at the Vitality Stadium.
However, with 10 games to go, the Cherries find themselves six points ahead of third-placed Luton with two games in hand on the Hatters, comfortably in control of their own fate.
So do fans have reason to feel nervous or is a return to the top-flight merely a formality under Scott Parker?
“We’re in a good position in that we’re six points clear of third with two games in hand.
“But we’ve had some disappointing games along the way; some really strange performances and results.
“Having said that, we went away to Huddersfield, who are a direct rival, and won comfortably.
“We’ve been a bit inconsistent, as have all the chasing pack, so we’ve managed to get away with it somewhat and are in a healthy position.”
Former England midfielder Parker was appointed head coach of the Cherries on a three-year deal last summer, leaving Fulham at the end of the 2020/21 campaign following the club’s relegation from the Premier League.
He replaced the outgoing Eddie Howe, who left after more than 450 games in charge across two spells at the Vitality Stadium, admitting the time was right for a change.
🤔 “Scott Parker is maybe getting found out a little bit…”
📈 “…but we’re in 2nd and six points clear of 3rd!”
— FansBet (@FansBet) March 30, 2022
And Parker’s impact was almost immediate as Bournemouth lost in the Championship play-offs to eventual winners Brentford, narrowly missing out on the chance to make a return to the top flight at the first time of asking.
The Cherries enjoyed a bright start to this season, remaining unbeaten in their opening 15 league games before eventually suffering their first loss to Preston in November.
Despite spending the majority of the campaign going toe-to-toe with Fulham for control of the Championship summit, a run of six games without a win over the winter period and two losses to start 2022 have hindered Bournemouth’s title aspirations.
“The performances have been a little bit concerning under Parker,” explains Tom.
“We’ve been a bit safe and conservative in our approach when we’ve got the players and the armoury to really hurt teams.
“Looking at the fixtures coming up, people would say that Bournemouth have got a tough run in and on paper we have.
“We’ve got to play Sheffield United, Fulham, Blackburn, Millwall and Middlesbrough, but having said that, we’ve struggled against the likes of Preston, Reading and Peterborough.
“We’re probably better suited to teams who come out and have a go, while we’re also in a position that drawing those games will still probably be good for us.”
Whether it’s as Champions or runners-up, Bournemouth appear to be well placed for a swift return to the Premier League.
This week, the Cherries announced record pre-tax profits of £17m for the year ending June 2021, while the club’s first season back in England’s second-tier saw them record an operating profit of £23.6 million.
And should they win their game in hand, they would cut the gap on leaders Fulham to just five points with Scott Parker’s old side still to visit the South Coast on April 23rd.
So does Tom believe promotion to the Premier League as champions is still a possibility?
“I think Scott Parker may be getting found out a bit,” he reveals.
“There are certain things that we heard from Fulham fans that we’re seeing now in terms of that defensive mind-set and approach.
“Having said that, we are in second place, six points ahead of third and the remit is to get promoted – it would take a car crash for us not to get a top-two finish now.
“Looking at Fulham they’ve got a tough run and they’ve got to come to our place.
“Is the title on? It’s probably too much of a stretch but you never know in the Championship.
“I’m quietly confident that Bournemouth can get the job done and return to the Premier League along with Fulham.”
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