MANAGER Eddie Howe believes a stronger and more competitive Championship will place “added pressure” on Cherries as they bid to better last season’s historic achievements.
Cherries marked their first campaign in the second flight for 23 years by securing 10th place – the club’s highest finishing position since it joined the Football League in 1923.
Howe’s men also broke numerous club records for the second tier including goals scored, points gained and away wins, while Lewis Grabban set a new individual goalscoring best.
Cherries were the only promoted team to avoid an instant return to League One, while they also finished higher than clubs with a wealth of experience in the top two divisions.
Boss Howe knows Cherries will need to be on their mettle if they are to stand any chance of surpassing their exploits and to ensure they do not suffer a bout of second-season syndrome.
Speaking to the Daily Echo following the publication of the new fixtures, Howe said: “I think it is going to be a tougher division next season.
“There are three strong clubs coming up from League One and both Brentford and Rotherham are having a go financially and have invested quite a bit of money. Together with Wolves, they will certainly add to the strength as will the three which have come down, Cardiff, Norwich and Fulham.
“We need to be prepared for a better division, harder games and are going to have to be better ourselves. There are no surprises for me and it is going to be a very strong league, as it was last season, but perhaps even stronger.”
Howe added: “It is added pressure for us because we performed so well, especially in the second half of the season. It is not only the expectations from everyone else but the expectations we put on ourselves are very high as well.
“From our perspective, we have to check those with a few things like how strong the league is and how much money is being spent by the relegated and promoted teams and the clubs around us.
“We are not just reliant on money and have to be very smart with how we work, what we do and how we go about things. That has got to be our competitive edge, not money.
“I am aware of how difficult it is going to be to beat last season but that has to be our aim. There is always pressure in high-level sport and we have to try to react to that as best we can.”
Howe’s players return for the start of pre-season a week tomorrow before heading to Austria for a five-day training camp at the start of July. They will meet Danish club FC Copenhagen in their first friendly on Friday, July 11.