CAPTAIN Tommy Elphick believes the lessons learned from last season’s experiments can provide the perfect formula for a successful second stint in the Championship.
The Dean Court skipper missed just one match in all competitions from November 23 and formed a formidable partnership with Steve Cook at the heart of a Cherries defence which secured five clean sheets in six matches from the start of March.
That coincided with a fine run of form – eight wins in 10 second-tier outings – which took Cherries from 17th at the end of February to within striking distance of the play-off places with five games to play.
Ultimately, a berth in the top six proved a bridge too far for Eddie Howe’s men but Elphick, 26, reckons Cherries can benefit from their year on the learning curve and hit the ground running this time.
Discussing the importance of a flying start to the new campaign, Elphick told the Daily Echo: “Last season it was new to us all and there was a lot of change in the first few weeks. Rocky (Ryan Allsop) was in goal but got suspended, then got injured and we had to shuffle things round quite a bit.
“We flirted with a back three and while that was a great tool for us to use, once we got settled with a four we found our rhythm and got on a bit of a roll. It gave us the platform for everybody to defend from front to back.
“Even when we weren’t keeping clean sheets, we put in the work on the training ground and it paid off in the end. There is no better feeling than going to places like Barnsley, keeping them out and nicking a late goal and we need to do more of that next season if we are to be successful.
“With the way we play, we have to defend from the front. The manager wants us to press high, be expansive and play with energy which is a great tactic. When it comes off I think people can see how well it suits us.
“Last season, there were some big wake-up calls for us but we learned from them. Yes, we were a little bit shaken up by early results but the reason we became so successful was because we never doubted ourselves and always stuck to the game plan.
“We finished last season really well and if we want to move on from that, we have to keep in mind everything we took from our experiences, both good and bad.”