TWO years ago the chatter was all about when Manchester United would swing by Dean Court, of trips to Anfield and White Hart Lane.

The Premier League was unexplored territory, a world formerly so remote it may as well have been situated on the other side of the moon.

Eddie Howe and his players would have viewed it somewhat differently, of course. It would have been a brave person who suggested to the manager or any of his promotion winners that they were poised for an extended day out, before returning whence they came.

But for supporters, a fixture list mapping out when their team would be contesting matches against Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and the rest was all they needed to sustain them through the summer months.

Inevitably, it all got a bit more serious when these clubs stopped being a name on a page and became real-life opponents. And when the points prised from United and Chelsea became precious bullion in the fight for survival.

As it transpired, Cherries retained their top-flight status with something to spare, then went and upped the ante by finishing ninth last season.

When the fixtures landed on the doormat yesterday, then, fans players and manager alike, would have viewed them through a clinical lens, calculating what impact, if any, the sequence of Cherries' games would have on their chances of bettering everything that has gone before.

You need only refer back to that 2015-16 campaign to appreciate how the simple matter of which order you play the other teams in is rather relevant.

Cherries' run-in read like a cruel joke, albeit not many people were laughing as they lost six of their final eight matches – all to sides now bracketed among the Premier League's top seven.

It is a fair bet, though, that having such a monstrous climax to the season on the horizon sharpened a few minds and acted as an extra spur to bag 40 points in quick time.

Norwich faced a similar predicament three years ago. Five points clear of the bottom three, with five games remaining, the Carrow Road club pulled the plug on manager Chris Hughton's reign.

The root of Norwich's blind panic could be located in the identity of their four final opponents: Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. They picked up one more point and went down.

There is no series of matches quite so daunting in Cherries' schedule for next season, the closest thing to it a congested December, when seven matches include meetings with Southampton, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton.

In the depths of winter it is the type of run with the potential to cast a dark cloud over a team's campaign. Equally, gather a hefty collection of points from that lot and Cherries would enter 2018 in high spirits – and, one imagines, healthily positioned in the table.

Back to the start of the season and, on the face of it, matches against West Brom and Watford offer the chance to build momentum as soon as the starter's gun sounds. And, as we are frequently told, momentum in football is a vital commodity.

Lose to that pair, though, and you can be sure the doomsayers will be tipping Cherries for a prolonged battle against the drop.

By contrast, should Brighton get nothing from their first two games, at home to Manchester City and away at Leicester, there will be no such rush to judgment.

And if you think managers don't consider this sort of thing, a penny for Ronald Koeman's thoughts.

The Everton boss is primed for a heavy-spending summer with a view to the Merseysiders competing for a Champions League spot next term.

His team's first-day encounter with Stoke, however, is followed by matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

That is a season wrecker, right there. And who pitches up at Goodison Park on September 23 ready to exploit any possible psychological damage?


See, this stuff does matter.