EXCLUSIVE: Cherries legend Steve Fletcher: “Europe will be the next aim”

Steve Fletcher

Steve Fletcher Photo Credit: “Hamworthy Recreation v AFC Bournemouth 2” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by StuBramley

AFC Bournemouth record appearance holder Steve Fletcher has talked about the high ambitions at the Dorset club in an exclusive interview with Nerve Sport.

The Cherries first team assistant coach and ambassador said that a club like Bournemouth should never want to stand still, and that they will always aim higher every season.

Given the striker scored possibly the most important goal in the club’s history in 2009, a winner against Grimsby Town that kept them in the Football League, he will know just how important that mantra is.

Since then, the Cherries have come leaps and bounds. They are on course to achieve a record points tally in their fourth season in the Premier League, a far cry from struggling in League Two.

Fletcher, who scored over 100 goals for Bournemouth, has been part of this fairytale rise to the Premier League in a non-playing capacity since his retirement in 2014.

And the 46-year-old has high hopes for the Dorset side. He said: “You want to get better ever year. The motto is always moving forward, together anything is possible. We have these phrases around the place, and they’ve stuck with us. So, you never want to stand still.

“I think if you stand still, you move backwards, so we’re always striving for that next step which is why this season our aim is to be in the highest position we’ve ever finished with the highest points.”

However, Fletcher is realistic about where that ambition would eventually lead fans: “No one’s ever going to turn around and say we’re a top six club, of course we’re not. The big six are the big six for a reason – not just the positions they always finish every season but the stature of the club.

“We have to understand this is a small football club at this present time and we are over achieving. But because of hard work, determination, commitment, desire, and passion, everything we’ve shown, we’re in the position we’re in and that will never stop.”

And that passion, according to Fletcher, means Bournemouth always need to be looking up instead of down.

He said: “Just being in the Premier League is incredible for this football club, but we don’t just want to survive year in year out because I think if you have that mentality, it’ll only end up going one way and that’s downwards.”

Bournemouth should always remember to never be complacent because they can get hit hard, according to Fletcher.

Given it is still astonishing the club is in the Premier League, he is probably justified in saying so.

As for the current season, with six matches remaining, Fletcher says the aim is to better their record points tally of 46 points set in 2016/17. And he has big hopes for the coming seasons, including continental football:

“Where it takes us, who knows. Who is to say that we couldn’t ever get into Europe? That will be, I suppose, the next aim.”

Current coaching role

‘Supa Fletch’ also talked about his current role at the club. The Hartlepool-born striker was initially in recruitment at Vitality Stadium before becoming a first-team coach under Eddie Howe.

The 46-year-old says Howe has changed a lot since becoming Bournemouth manager in 2009. His ex-roommate Fletcher also explained that the Cherries boss has had to adapt a lot and has become a better coach as a result:

“As Eddie’s matured, his coaching has just gone to another level. He’s so meticulous in every little department. Most people would think it’s just a minor thing, for him its huge. So those one per cents make a massive difference.

“If you’re a coach and you’re not on it, and you’re not doing exactly what he wants, he’ll let you know. You can only make a mistake once or twice and he’s on you.

Laughing, Fletcher also admitted he’d love to look at videos of training sessions from ten years ago to try and compare them to Howe and assistant manager Jason Tindall’s drills now.

Fletcher is of the opinion that Howe is one of the best managers in the league: “The biggest compliment I can give them [Howe and Tindall] is I’ve seen other training sessions with other clubs and some of them don’t even compare to the level Eddie’s at. He’ll never admit to that and he always wants to get better, he never wants to stand still.

“We’ve had big players come down here and they’re so complementary about Eddie’s coaching and the way he goes about his business. I think that’s a massive testament to the effort and commitment he’s put in and his hard work.”

That effort and commitment often translates to intricate training drills. The former Cherries frontman said he’s often involved in them as part of his coaching, sometimes even as a defender.

Fletcher said: “Eddie talks me through training before we go out, what he expects me to be involved in every drill. Sometimes I’m with the defenders, so I’m as a defender up against the centre forwards. Other times I’m out wide doing whatever Eddie wants me to do. My role within the drills changes from drill to drill.

“Eddie’s quite methodical and he’s quite precise in setting up his drills so one minute I’ll be with the strikers, the next minute I’ll be with the defenders. I just use my experience and what I’ve been through and whatever Eddie wants me to do.”

Just being in the Premier League is incredible for this football club

Fletcher also wryly admitted that he is probably a better footballer now than he was when he was scoring goals for Bournemouth.

“I’ve probably become a better technical footballer myself since I’ve retired, because you’re with these boys day in day out and you have to be on it.

“It doesn’t matter what role I’m playing within the coaching session, I have to make sure if I’m passing a ball in that it’s got to be crisp, it’s got to be sharp, it’s got to be precise. Maybe back when I was playing it didn’t have to be the level of what it is now.”

Admiration of the squad

Clearly, training everyday with Premier League footballers has re-energised the Cherries legend. He seemed as youthful as ever when he eulogised about the current crop of strikers at the club.

He said: “These boys are at the top of their game. When I was playing for 24 years, we never had the players of the calibre that I’m helping in coaching with now. When I was playing, we were strong, we were quite fit, but these lads are on another level.

“It’s good to work with them day in day out especially when they’re on their game. And they’re all different. They all possess different qualities, all the strikers.”

His praise for strikers like Callum Wilson, Joshua King, Dominic Solanke, and Lys Mousset could not be higher: “These boys obviously possess something that millions of other strikers don’t, otherwise they wouldn’t be playing in the Premier League week in week out.

“It’s an honour to be out there training with them.”

The fact many of the current squad at Bournemouth have gone on to earn international call-ups is not lost on Fletcher.

“If you’d asked this question even just three or four years ago, that we’re going to have one international player, people would have laughed at you. Never mind eight or nine.

“It’s a testament to not only the players who are playing in the internationals, but everyone involved at the football club. Everyone who trains every day, the management, the staff all around the place. Once again, it’s how far this football club’s come.”

That progress is no better expressed than by the club’s flagbearer, who scored their most important goal ever. As another Premier League season winds down, the fact this tiny club will be up there come the off-season will continue to inspire.

And no one is more inspiring than the man whose name adorns Dean Court’s North Stand. As genial as he was in his playing days, Steve Fletcher continues to lead his Cherries behind the scenes.

Stay tuned for more from Nerve Sport’s interview with Cherries legend Steve Fletcher in the days to come.

Written by Akshay Kulkarni (@ImpatientPedant)