LINCHPIN defender Tommy Elphick has revealed how reminders of the early-season dark days have been helping to keep Cherries grounded during their 17-match unbeaten run.
Elphick, who has been short-listed for the League One player of the month for December, has played every minute of every game since Eddie Howe returned as manager in October.
The 25-year-old has been captaining Cherries in the absence of injured Miles Addison and has grown in stature after experiencing an indifferent start to his career at Dean Court.
Elphick, a summer signing from Brighton, featured under former boss Paul Groves as Cherries slipped into the relegation zone after winning just one of their opening 11 games. The poor start included a 4-0 drubbing by Saturday’s opponents Swindon and a 3-1 defeat at Crawley – a result which saw Groves and assistant Shaun Brooks relieved of their respective posts.
Elphick told the Daily Echo: “A lot of our motivation for the Crawley game last month came from what happened at their place in October. When we went there, it was probably the lowest point in our season and a lot of our inspiration has come from it.
“The manager showed us a clip of when we were walking off the pitch and it refreshed our memories of that night. It acted as a wake-up call to stay on our toes and keep doing what we are doing.
“When you are on a good run, it is easily forgotten how quickly things can turn. It is important we all stay grounded and continue the hard work because we don’t want to go there again.
“Sometimes, if you get a good result against a Premier League club, it can go the other way and people can start resting on their laurels. But the attitude has been brilliant in training this week and the lads will be well prepared for Saturday.”
Elphick, in common with the rest of his team-mates, had a torrid time at the County Ground as Swindon ran riot, with calls for Groves’s head deafening from the travelling supporters.
“We had a lot of injuries and the team was thrown together but there were still no excuses for the way we performed,” said Elphick. “We still had enough quality and enough good players on the pitch. I remember everybody was really disheartened at that stage of the season and it wasn’t looking good.
“But we have managed to turn it round. We have got to keep reminding ourselves of those feelings to ensure we stay where we are.
“The gaffer is a good man-manager and has all sorts of tricks up his sleeve. I have been very impressed with some of things he has presented to us before games and they seem to work. I don’t know what he will do for Saturday but I am sure he will have something to remind us that we keep need to going in the right direction.
“Little things like that help to bring the lads together and it is common ground for the lads who played in those games. It is not a nice feeling and we don’t want to be on the receiving end of results like that again.”
Meanwhile, Eddie Howe has been nominated for the League One manager-of-the-month award for December. Howe, who won the November prize, has been shortlisted with Uwe Rosler (Brentford) and Mark Robins (Coventry City).