WHEN Mark Molesley made his debut on loan for Cherries against Shrewsbury in 2008, even his own team-mates didn’t think he would be around too long.
“He won’t last five minutes with a haircut like that,” one midfield wag quipped to the Echo’s reporters prior to the 4-1 defeat in Shropshire.
But as uncertainty and unpredictability heightened and reverse followed reverse, including arguably the club’s most embarrassing result of the past 10 years, the 1-0 defeat at Blyth Spartans in the FA Cup, Molesley was slowly starting to fall in love with the football club that, in his words this week, would make his dreams come true.
Two more defeats, against Brentford and Barnet, followed before 2008 became 2009 and Jimmy Quinn was replaced by Eddie Howe.
Despite the change in manager, though, Molesley’s future was never in doubt. He was exactly the sort of player Howe needed to turn around Cherries’ fortunes. They had been handed a 17 point deduction for failing to exit administration in accordance with league rules and were cut adrift at the bottom of League Two.
A purposeful, pulverant, yet infectious character, Molesley played every game like it would be his last that season. Howe already had a former window fitter in midfield in Marvin Bartley. When he signed Molesley permanently in January 2009, he was adding a former kitchen fitter, college lecturer and postman to his ranks.
But as Molesley had said in an interview after the Shrewsbury match, he would have run from Grays to sign at Dean Court if he had needed to. A shot at the pro game was his vision. Cherries got the benefit when they needed it most.
Molesley went on to score four goals as Howe’s braves incredibly held on to their league status that year, with his injury-time winner at Dagenham & Redbridge in February sparking the kind of scenes usually reserved for Steve Fletcher goals against Grimsby.
In many ways, Molesley perfectly encompassed the spirit Howe created during that extraordinary campaign and his departure for Exeter this week illustrated the change at Dean Court over the past 12 months.
Rather than having become surplus to requirements, AFC Bournemouth, in League One and bankrolled by Maxim Demin, had simply outgrown Mark Molesley.
But while memories of many players tend to slip into the grainy matter at the backs of supporters’ minds soon after they leave, Molesley should be remembered fondly and with a huge debt of gratitude. After all, the chain reaction relegation in 2008-09 would have sparked could have sounded the death knell for the club.
A hard worker off the pitch as well as on it, the Echo’s electronic picture library boasts dozens of shots of Molesley promoting the club in schools and raising money for charity, as well as making those trademark marauding runs in red and black.
A true ambassador, the majority of Molesley’s selfless work in the community was done while carrying the burden of potentially career threatening injuries.
Often dubbed a “s*** Robbie Savage” by opposing supporters due to his blonde locks, Molesley was anything but over the past four years at Dean Court.
He was just Mark Molesley.