This weekend, Bournemouth made their top flight bow, but it could have come much sooner than 2015 were it not for a rare lapse of judgment from Harry Redknapp back in 1986…
Ian Wright is a name that needs no introduction. He was one of England’s most prolific strikers, making it to the very top with Arsenal and establishing himself as the number one sharpshooter at Highbury until Thierry Henry arrived on the scene a few years later.
Carl Richards is a name that may need a bit more introduction unless you are a Bournemouth fan. Carl Richards is generally well regarded on the south coast, but world class he certainly wasn’t.
He was signed by then-Bournemouth manager Harry Redknapp in 1986, leaving a bemused Ian Wright behind at Enfield….
WHAT IF…. Harry Redknapp had been on the ball in 1986?
As Redknapp briefed Enfield star Richards on joining Bournemouth, a young striker by the name of Ian Wright approached and demanded that he be signed aswell. Redknapp’s curiosity was fuelled and he eventually signed both of them in the close season.
Wright’s arrival was dramatic, as the newcomer bagged 35 goals in 1986/87 en-route to Bournemouth’s third division title. Another promotion followed in 1989 to the first division, and by now Wright’s form was interesting many of first division’s established teams. On the eve of the 1989/90 season, he shocked the footballing world by transferring to Norwich, for an undisclosed fee.
With the money gained from the transfer, Redknapp signed Swedish winger Anders Limpar from little known club Cremonense along with Paul Ince, who was coaxed into a shock move that broke the existing club record. Also joining them over the following days was a volatile but skilful Frenchman by the name of Eric Cantona and a new goalkeeper, Nigel Martyn, from Bristol Rovers.
The Cherries eventually finished 6th in their first top flight season and remained an ever present, becoming one of the inaugural Premier League teams in 1992. Bournemouth fans were rocked on 1 July 1992 however, when it was revealed that Harry Redknapp would be leaving them to take over as England manager.
Bournemouth installed Joe Jordan, from Bristol City, as their new manager. Subsequently, he signed Efan Ekoku and highly promising youngster Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest to bolster their midfield. Bournemouth remained strong throughout the season and finished in 3rd place, gaining their first ever jaunt into Europe.
Over the summer of 1993 however, there was growing unrest between Keane and Jordan. Both were strong characters in the dressing room and Keane sometimes felt it was necessary to subvert his manager’s orders to achieve results. Since he had done this with great success over the 1992/93 season, the dressing room’s loyalty was split between the two.
Because of this rift, Bournemouth began the new season slowly, losing four of their first seven matches. However, it was during a UEFA Cup tie against Vitesse Arnhem that the trouble boiled over. After a 2-1 win at Dean Court on 15 September 1993, only a draw was needed from the return game in Holland.
The pressure was intense, with Bournemouth in need of cash from a cup run to maintain the wages of its star players. The game was winding down to a 0-0 draw when, in the 87th minute, Phillip Cocu found himself with the ball on the half way line, nutmegged Roy Keane, then burst forward and chipped the ball past Nigel Martyn to eliminate Bournemouth.
Jordan was furious at Keane and a fight quickly erupted between the two fiery characters in the dressing room, all but sealing Keane’s exit from Dean Court. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson saw this rift as an opportunity. When a £5 million offer was tabled, Keane couldn’t resist and joined United instantly.
The Bournemouth players were mutinous after this incident and the remainder of the 1993/94 season was disastrous – they were relegated and Joe Jordan was sacked.
By contrast, Harry Redknapp had produced an England team with much promise. They had qualified easily for the 1994 World Cup and finished as runners up with the mercurial Ian Wright becoming only the second Englishman (after Gary Lineker) to claim the golden boot.