Former AFC Bournemouth chairman, Eddie Mitchell, talks about the history of the club, its current position and about his fears for the Cherries going forward. Plus he gives his view on Eddie Howe as potential future England manager.
A relaxed Eddie Mitchell sits in his modern factory in Sandbanks surrounded by evidence of his latest venture, high-tech skills training equipment called Elite Skills Arena, ready to talk all things Cherries.
As the former AFC Bournemouth chairman (2009-2013) and die-hard fan gives his view on the club then and now and on Eddie Howe as future England manager, it is clear his love for the club runs as deeply as ever. He said:
“Watching it [AFC Bournemouth] from the outside it’s very enjoyable because at least half of the players that actually feature each week are players that I actually allowed into the club.
“I sanctioned their moves to the club and it’s great to watch them go forward from, some of them from the second division right through to play in the premiership.
“The club’s motto is ‘anything’s possible together’ and really I would say that Eddie [Howe] and Jason [Tindall] have done a great job with the lads that came into the club while I was there and are still there.”
Mitchell has been out of the game for as long as he was in it at Bournemouth – four years. He was dubbed ‘Marmite Mitch’ during his time at the helm for his fiery outbursts and protective nature. He laughs as he reminisces about one of the times his passion got the better of him resulting in light-hearted banter with one of the fans. He explained:
“I told one of the fans in a fans forum to go and watch Southampton if they didn’t like it purely because he accused me of ripping the assets out of the club and selling them, when really it wasn’t the case.”
(It’s worth mentioning here for a moment the fierce rivalry between the Cherries and Saints. Telling a fan to go and watch Southampton is perhaps similar to asking Pep Guardiola of Manchester City to go and have a pint with Jose Mourinho and discuss tactics – it is just not OK.)
During his time, Bournemouth and Mitchell climbed the ranks together from the second division to the Championship, he won a tax-battle saving the club from administration and negotiated the return of the man in charge, Eddie Howe.
Howe’s return to the club has resulted in their promotion to the Premier League, where they have remained for the past two seasons. Mitchell reflects on the ‘hairy’ moment he convinced Howe to come back to manage Bournemouth and his fears for the club going forward.
“It was my dog that actually should take the credit for Eddie coming back as I used to walk him along the prom [Sandbanks’ Promenade] in the two weeks or more that we negotiated Eddie and Jason’s return.
“His name’s Bertie and I’d love him to have a mention because he did really take some stick. And I’d like to mention a guy called Jonny Yems, because he really did play a big part in the deal which bought Eddie and Jason back.
“I think when they came back, the wheels were in motion to go forward. They came back at a good time for the club and helped to propel it further.
“He’s one of or the best manager the club’s had in many years, but I can’t talk about managers long before Harry Redknapp.
“To lose Eddie I think the club would go downhill quite fast. I mean he’s built the club around himself and I think he’s done a good job of that.
“It’s fearful for me to see the way that he is relied on to a degree. If he was offered a job at Arsenal or somewhere and he decided to take it up and he took his colleagues with him, I think he’d leave Bournemouth in a very weak position.”
Mitchell can see Howe’s potential in being future England manager but admits any man would find the job hard with the current state of English football.
“I think Eddie would be a great England manager. I think he would still benefit all the time from having Jason with him because they’re chalk and cheese.
“I don’t think any England manager at the moment is going to enjoy a lot of success, because of the way the premiership is set up and the big amount of money at the top which brings in the best players in the world and really does squeeze the English player.
“It’s unfortunate. If Eddie got the job at some stage, I think he’d do a great job. It would be hard for any England manager in the next period of time to enjoy success that should be there.”
Mitchell put a lot of time and money into the club he loves and turns his attention to some of the improvements he made while there.
“I had to put the passion and the love into the club, because it’s what really was lacking at the club when I went in bar the finances being in really poor shape and the building itself, Dean Court, in poor shape. It was really a two thirds finished stadium. We had to go in and we had to put a lot of things right.
“It [the renovation of Dean Court] was something which I desired to do and was proud to do it.
“It [AFC Bournemouth] came out the other end when I left a lot stronger and a lot higher up the league table.
“I do believe that myself and others at the club at the time, I wouldn’t particularly say directors of the club, but supporters and people that supported me and helped me through some difficult times at the club really put the wheels in motion so they could carry that motion into the premiership.”
So how does Eddie Mitchell see the club progressing?
“I think the slogan of the club ‘together anything is possible’ is true. Bit of togetherness makes an army, and that army can march on. With the likes of Leicester winning the premiership, it’s not an impossible task.
“Player prices have moved on in the last year so much that a top player now can earn £150m in a sale whereas the top players a short time ago [for example] Gareth Bale was £80m and considered really expensive – not expensive for his ability but it was a lot of money.
“It seems to have moved on so the clubs like Bournemouth that haven’t got the gates, haven’t got the history and following of some of the really big clubs are going to struggle to stay mid table.
“It would be great to see them higher in the table.”
It is clear from the way Mitchell talks about the club still from a business point of view, his heart is still very much invested in it. He said:
“I think I’m disappointed the club hasn’t brought the ground back that it’s got a 15 year lease on by now with the revenues one would presume comes from the premiership.
“We hear of these figures bandied in the paper but no doubt they’re near the truth. I think it would be a good time to put some of that money to one side and buy the stadium back.
“We actually did plans for the stadium and we’ve still got those plans which would bring it up to 22,000 seats. I did put them online but got told to take them off because of gathering support, but it could easily be done.
“The infrastructure’s already there. The access needs improving so put a couple of million pounds onto the build but that’s about it. It could be done quite cost effectively really.”
Mitchell may now be sat in a different chair, with one eye on his new ventures namely Elite Skills Arena, which has already had interest from the likes of FC Barcelona, and the construction of a new Sandbanks promenade, but he still has one eye firmly on his former club. He still shares the joy of every win and the crush of each loss.
He attributes the Cherries’ success mainly to the fans. He said:
“It would be fair to say that Bournemouth wouldn’t be there today without the fans that stuck by the club, that helped me steer the club in those four years. I’m just a fan, and I was privileged to have a job where I could influence decisions so without me it would still be going.”