“THE deal would not have gone through without the money that came in from our supporters.”

They were the words of then Cherries chairman Peter Phillips 15 years ago today after Eddie Howe completed his return to the club.

Howe, who came through the youth ranks at Cherries, admits the circumstances of his return were “humbling” having departed the club to join Portsmouth for around £400,000 in March 2002.

But following injury, the centre-back struggled to make his mark for Pompey and was eventually loaned back to Dean Court at the beginning of the 2004-05 campaign, following a short stint at Swindon Town.

Five months on, the deal was made permanent as Portsmouth agreed to let Howe leave his contract early and return to his boyhood club.

And after a group of fans pledged money to ‘EddieShare’, designed on the back of the successful Playershare scheme, funds were raised to help bring the defender back to Dorset with almost £15,000 accrued within the first 36 hours of Phillips launching the appeal.

Looking back at the scheme which saw fans help bring him in from Portsmouth, Howe said: “It was bizarre.

“It was really strange because I was just very, very keen to get playing again and feel important again and feel wanted again and just to see if I could still play.

“The next thing you hear a group of supporters trying to come together to raise money to sign you back, it’s a bit humbling really.

“It falls in line really with my relationship with the Bournemouth supporters. I thought it was an incredible gesture, one that made me feel very attached again to the club, very emotional and my aim then was to try and repay their faith.”

Phillips at the time said: “The money raised was crucial. Everyone knows we have no spare cash.

“We can’t afford to take on new players, even of the quality of Eddie, without them agreeing to a substantial pay-cut, which Eddie has, and also receiving some additional funding.

“Playershare did not have the funds available and the fans have stepped in and solved the problem for us again.

“The deal would not have gone through without the money that came in from our supporters.

“One supporter in particular made a major donation and then there was the extraordinary response we got to ‘EddieShare’.

“With the money, we were able to reach an agreement where we have now signed Eddie for two-and-a-half years and that just wouldn’t have been possible with the constraints in our budget without this help.”

Also speaking in 2004 Howe told the Daily Echo upon his return: “Once it was put to me to come back permanently, it was impossible to say no.

“I couldn’t have contemplated going anywhere else. I felt I owed the club something because they stuck by me and showed tremendous loyalty.”

But he admits now that had he heard what the fans were trying to do, he would have encouraged against it.

“It was pretty much out the blue,” said Howe when asked if he had heard about the scheme.

“I wasn’t part of planning that. I think someone told me about it probably while it was in motion and happening, not beforehand otherwise I’d have probably tried to stop it because I wouldn’t have wanted people to feel like they had to do that.

“But then when it was in motion and happening, I felt an extra responsibility coming back like right I’ve got to make this work, I’ve got to repay that faith that they’ve shown.”

Howe went on to make more than 50 further appearances for Cherries after penning a new permanent deal, seeing his overall tally eclipse 250 for the club before retiring from playing in 2007.

Discussing the desire to try and repay the faith shown to sign him from Portsmouth, Howe said: “I don’t think I totally did that on the pitch, so I apologise for that.

“But hopefully I’m trying to make up for it now in a different way.”