AFC Bournemouth, Vitality Stadium, Saturday 11 November, 5:30PM (Sky Sports)
AFCB 18th P11 W1 D3 L7 GD-18 6 Points
NUFC 6th P11 W6 D2 L3 GD+16 20 Points
Fun Fact: Formerly known as Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic, the south coast club adopted the name AFC Bournemouth in 1971 in an attempt to appear first in alphabetical lists of English football clubs…rumours that screams of “Who are dey?” could be heard over 250 miles away from the Crown Ground in Accrington remain unsubstantiated.
One last push…for now.
When owner Bill Foley sacked Gary O’Neil back in June – less than a month after O’Neil had led them to a relatively comfortable 15th-place Premier League finish – the Texas born former attorney clearly had a grand plan. Now, if that plan was to see his club in a 4-way relegation battle alongside the three of the poorest teams ever to be promoted to the Premier League, it’s fair to say his plan has been a resounding success…American owners and their mental ideas, eh?
With a backing of c.1,200 Mags, Saturday will see United complete their 7th game in 22 energy-sapping days as Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall return to the club that they took from 2nd bottom of Division 4 to the Premier League to take on Andoni Iraola’s misfiring Cherries.
Now, before I move to on-pitch matters, I’d like to call out the utter lunacy of moving this fixture to a 17:30pm kick off (despite the 750-mile round trip) for the second successive season; yet more proof – if it were needed – that the lunatics at Sky Sports towers are running the Premier League asylum. Sadly, the ‘football without fans is nothing’ narrative previously peddled by the cash hungry fuckers at Sky and the Premier League is fast becoming a distant memory…imagine my shock. Pricks.
Onto Saturday then…
With our hosts fresh off the back of a 1-6 reverse (Man City), and having registered only one win (Burnley) and a pitiful four goals from their six home PL outings so far this season, flutter-loving Mags could be forgiven for having this down as an away banker in their weekly ACCA. However, when you consider the impact our recent exertions have had on an already decimated Black and White squad, this is a fixture that could prove trickier than it maybe would have done earlier in the season.
Whilst our injury list is reminiscent of the final hours of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift (check your history books), Iraola’s squad will have had a full week of recovery time and will be in a position to put out their strongest line-up. None of their key men are currently occupying the treatment table and, in Lloyd Kelly, Philip Billing and Marcus Tavernier, they are a side with a smattering, (albeit) mild, of quality. Make no mistake, the pound shop Arteta will be eyeing up Saturday evening as an opportunity to kick start their season.
That being said, I don’t expect Iraola to deviate from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation that sees Solanke plough a lone furrow up front – as a result, I expect to see Trippier (LB) and Livaramento (RB) push on to support our midfield and in turn play critical roles as we seek to secure three points that are likely to only maintain our 6th place position, with the teams around us all having eminently winnable games.
During his presser earlier today, Eddie reported no new injuries or returnees and was as canny as ever when pressed on the fitness of Callum Wilson, suggesting that a decision was yet to be made on the availability of the ex-Bournemouth man. Despite having scored 45 in only 85 appearances, Wilson is yet to notch against his former club so it’s fair to say he’s ‘due’…I can’t be alone in hoping that the fact that Wilson is yet to withdraw from the England squad suggests he will be available come 5:30pm Saturday.
Should our handsome No 9 line up alongside Miggy / Gordon (who should both be relatively fresh following their 45 mins in Dortmund), and in front of a midfield trio of Longstaff, Joelinton, and Willock, you’d like to think we will have enough to head north with three points before entering a timely two-week international break that will allow our walking wounded some much-needed recovery time.
If indeed you’re feeling brave enough for a flutter, Anthony Gordon to score (any time) in a 3-1 United victory is an attractive 22/1 with Paddy Power (other bookies are available) – if this doesn’t come in, however, you can rest assured that this paragraph will be deleted from the records by no later than 19:30pm on Saturday night!
Lee Forster @LeeDForster