RICHARD O’Kelly helped Walsall put a spoke through Cherries’ promotion hopes – before tipping his former club to bounce back to land the League One title.
Assistant O’Kelly and boss Dean Smith plotted Cherries’ downfall at the Banks’s Stadium on Saturday as the Saddlers completed the double over Eddie Howe’s men.
O’Kelly, Sean O’Driscoll’s number two at Cherries between 2004 and 2006, saw Walsall win 2-1 at Dean Court in September in one of Paul Groves’s final games at the helm.
Cherries’ first league defeat under Howe saw them slip a place to eighth – with a gap of 13 points separating them from top two Tranmere and Doncaster.
Recent history suggests Cherries will need in excess of 80 points to finish in the automatic promotion places, with Howe’s team currently on 43 with 19 games remaining.
And while 13 of the 24 clubs in the division could still arguably harbour hopes of reaching the Championship, O’Kelly believes Cherries could finish as top dogs.
He told the Daily Echo: “I have watched them quite a lot and, without doubt, they are the best team in the division. I know their league position doesn’t show that at the moment, but they are.
“They have got good organisation and they all know what they are doing when they haven’t got the ball. For us to get anything out of the game, we knew we would have to be on top of our game and also have a bit of luck.
“My understanding is that the cream always rises to the top. Bournemouth have got a very consistent level of performance and the game could have gone either way. I thought the game was an outstanding advertisement for this division.”
O’Kelly added: “Our win at Bournemouth was before Eddie and the current management came in but it is the same group of players.
“You preach good behaviour, good attitude and ask them to be consistent in what they do and the players’ ability takes care of the rest.
“I don’t think there is any magical formula. It probably starts like that and then the personality of the managers and coaches puts that across to the players and lets them take it on board.”