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Saturday 23rd July 2022 ko 15:00

Pre-Season Friendly


BRISTOL CITY 1 (Martin 49p)

Att 4,870

Entry £15

Programme £2 

Teamsheet FREE

As a footballing couple Robyn and I have one small issue that we work with and it’s that she’s roughly 1,900 grounds behind me. We’ve dealt with it by having what gets called “Robyn Revisits” where I take her to what I tend to describe as my “Greatest Hits;” trips to the likes of Chesham United have certainly fallen into that category. But Robyn is also interested in completing her “92” and that will involve a lot of the expense and inconvenience that can come with watching a club in the Premier League and EFL.

An unintended consequence of that is that since she moved to Oxford 4 years ago she’s seen very little of her beloved Bristol City So when our nephew Che travelled from Bristol to spend the weekend with us and could get tickets for this fixture, it would have been churlish not to have both ticked off another of her 92 and watched Bristol City as well!

I chose to ignore the horrifying truth that the last time I was at Dean Court it was just after the ground had been redeveloped and rotated in 2001, and that Che hadn’t been born. I walked round the murals of former players behind the away end and winced. I’d seen a fair few of them play, where had the time gone?

In Che I got the sense of his excitement of visiting a Premier League ground, even if my mind told me that Dean Court’s capacity of 11,379 is less than the 12,500 capacity at my club League 1 Oxford United. He looked for the wonder, and I feared the inconvenience. In the end we got a bit of both.

The fact of the matter is that the ground is one of the smallest to have staged Premier League football, and the concourses are recognisable from new builds such as Doncaster Rovers. But AFC Bournemouth have clearly learned how to work efficiently with what they’ve got. We paid a quid to park in King’s Park, strolled across to the away end where the stewarding managed to be both thorough and friendly. I think we’ve all known instances elsewhere where it’s been one, or neither. While the ground was less than half full it didn’t take a lot of imagination to see them cope with 6,000 people more. 

In fact the only issue seemed to be the side Bournemouth were putting on the pitch. Just two free transfers had come in at that point, and one I was surprised to see was Joe Rothwell. We had him at Oxford following promotion from League 2, and he clearly had talent, he had Manchester United on his CV after all, but he was allowed to leave at the end of his contract to join Blackburn Rovers, with his time seen as frustrating by both club, player and supporters. He certainly has a wonderful opportunity at Bournemouth, but rather drifted in and out of the game, in way I recognised from a few years ago.

Frustration was also evident in the manner of Bournemouth manager Scott Parker, he clearly felt unable to bring in all the players he wanted or needed, and the benefit of writing this after the event, a 9-0 caning against Liverpool saw him depart. Whoever replaces him must be aware you can’t build a successful Premier League outfit around Joe Rothwell.

In contrast this was an excellent day out for Robyn’s Robins. New signing Mark Sykes, signed on a free from Oxford United (yes there does seem to be a running theme!) looked lively and were good value for their win, even if I did ponder whether this was a superior performance from a Championship side, or a side not up to the Premier League they’re in, or a bit of both.

The away fans enjoyed themselves managing to add a four-letter word beginning with “C” into every song, and have two “Wurzels” songs in their repertoire! A full away end was impressive too, given the two sides met in last year’s Championship.

But for this neutral I found far more in it than I’d expected. Part of it was watching the team loved by my wife and most of her family, but also finding something in it for myself, it had been 20 years after all!