BOSS Eddie Howe has sounded out a defiant message on the eve of the new season and insists Cherries have nothing to fear from the Championship.
Cherries will be bidding to build on last season’s club-record 10th-placed finish when they kick off the campaign against Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium tomorrow.
Previewing the season, Howe said: “I think we definitely saw progress during pre-season and, if we hadn’t, you would question what you were doing. I feel we are confident, the players are fit, which is the most important thing, and now we have to deliver a performance at Huddersfield.
“We are aware this is going to be a difficult season but I don’t believe we have anything to fear. We looked at last season as a challenge and tried to hit that head-on and this season will be no different.
“If we can keep the same principles as to how we go about our business – hard work and collective team-work – then I think we have a good chance to be very successful.
“My personal expectations are very high. I want us to improve and to do better than we did last season in all departments and in all ways.
“You have to set the bar very high internally because going the other way is of no use and will only see you move backwards. My drive is very strong and I am very ambitious personally so would like to think we can achieve everything that is possible to achieve. Whether we end up doing that is in the lap of the gods at times. We have prepared very well and it is all geared up to be successful.”
Howe added: “We can still be perceived as underdogs in probably 60 to 70 per cent of the games but we don’t view ourselves that way. We view ourselves as a professional outfit with a squad with one of the best attitudes in the Championship.
"We have a very good dressing room, full of really strong characters and very good professionals. In that sense, I have what I want in terms of a dressing room which is all pulling in the right direction and all craving success.”
Cherries registered an opening-day victory against Charlton at Dean Court last season before suffering a 6-1 defeat at Watford in their first away game in the Championship. And after bouncing back with a home win over Wigan, Howe’s men went down 5-1 to the Terriers in West Yorkshire.
“That game is long gone,” said Howe. “But we will certainly use that experience and I think it stayed with us, as did the Watford game. But they were positives for us. We are both different teams now and I don’t think that game will have any bearing on this one. It would be nice to go there and give a good display to show we have moved on as a team and, hopefully, we can do that.
“It will be a tough game and no matter where we were this week, it was always going to be a very difficult game. It is the first day of the season, everyone wants to win and everyone is keen to get off to a good start, as we did last year.
“Huddersfield are a decent side. They have a unique system with the 3-5-2 formation and I don’t think they veer too far from that so it will be a difficult game but one that we are looking forward to.”
Howe was keeping his cards close to his chest regarding the injury situation with Dan Gosling and Harry Arter both believed to be doubts. And it remains to be seen whether Lee Camp and Darryl Flahavan will be fit to travel having both been struggling with thigh injuries.
“We are trying to get everybody fit,” said Howe. “If we could get a full complement, we would have a very strong squad. But as with most pre-seasons, you don’t have everything your own way and inevitably pick up knocks and niggles. It has happened to our goalkeeping department this season and we will wait and see whether either will be fit.”
Howe added: “We have prepared every player to play. That is the only way you can get the best out of everybody so a lot of our training has been along the lines of every player could possibly come in and have a starting position.
“I think that is the best way to do it because you could be forced to make a change after five minutes so someone has to step in and know their role. All the players will know their roles and responsibilities. Different players will find out at different times whether they are playing. I think you have to treat every player differently.”