It has been some few months for Steve Fletcher. His 19th season with AFC Bournemouth has seen him step down from the assistant manager role in November to focus on his playing career, as well as netting a dramatic 93rd minute equaliser against Walsall last month. The 39 year old talks openly about his humbleness towards his legendary status at the club, his future hopes for AFC Bournemouth, and his ‘greedy’ plans for his last ever game.
Still buzzing from that header?
Yeah I am, it was a great moment for me. First goal of season, and favourite moment of 2011/12 so far. I just hope there’s a few more to come! I thought maybe coming on on Saturday [against Notts County] I was going to grab the winner, but it wasn’t to be. It would have been nice if I could have managed back to back goals, but that’s just me being greedy I suppose!
Explain the feeling, and the praise you got after the goal. Twitter was going crazy for you.
It was amazing. I didn’t actually set up my Twitter account until after I’d stepped down as assistant manager because I didn’t feel it was appropriate. But it was my daughter who mentioned it to me so I set it up, and it was going mental after the game. It took me half the journey home from Walsall to reply to all of messages people were sending me!
“Probably the biggest reason I didn’t leave was my heart was here“
Did you reply to everyone’s messages?
I felt obliged to reply to every single person yeah so I made the effort. Whether I can do that every time I score I don’t know! But I was in such a good mood, and I did 1 or 2 so I thought I’d better do everybody. Maybe I should have just done a general message! It was great though, I had fantastic support. People were coming up with all the different stories about where they were when they heard the goal. I read about people driving around beeping their horns along with other people so obviously they were all listening to the game. It was a great feeling.
Of all the goals for the club, how high up did it rank?
It’s up there. It was important because it kept the away run going, and kept the spirits high because we’d just had a few good results. We came from 2-0 down after playing a terrible first half to rolling our sleeves up, going out there and proving we can do to others, what’s happened to us in the past when we’ve relinquished 2-0 leads. To do it in 93rd minute with a great header and a great cross right in front of our supporters it felt like a win, even though it only got us a point. The lads were buzzing in the dressing room after.
What’s been the secret behind AFC’s form of late? A fantastic run of has pushed you up to 9th in the table.
It’s been our away form that’s kept us there. People ask me this over the years, you always have seasons where your home form might be great and your away forms terrible, or vice versa, which was until of late, the case here. I know we’ve won a couple at home recently, but to start with, our home form was terrible. Whether it’s we got nervous at home I don’t know, you can’t put a finger on it. We might just relax a little bit more away from home, but to climb up the table is down to us being able to string a few wins together, rather than letting to them slip. When you’re down near the bottom, you only need 4 or 5 wins out of 6 or 7 games and you climb the table rapidly. We’re not just going to jump into 4th position in a couple more wins because teams near the top are winning as well.
I reckon we’ve been a bit of an eye – opener for some clubs who probably turn around and say well ‘why can’t we go and do what Bournemouth have just done? They were in 18th/19th 6 weeks ago, and now look at them, flying high as one of the most in-form teams.’ But we can’t rest on our laurels, if we do that we’d soon get kicked in ‘orchestra strolls’, and back down where we don’t belong. So we’ve got to make sure we go into every game and we’re not complacent because that’s the one thing in football. We have to very disciplined to go out there and have the drive and desire to do, and get where we’ve got already.
“It took me half the journey home to reply to all the messages people were sending me!“
What are the goals for the next month or so? Secure mid-table or push for promotion?
If you’d have asked me 3 months I would have loved a mid – table position, but a weeks a long time in football, and 2 months is an eternity. Things change day to day and they have done over the last few weeks. All of a sudden we’ve gone from people saying we’re going to struggle down the bottom end to we’ll be happy with a mid-table position to know people talking about us in and around the playoffs. We’re only just over the halfway stage of the season, there’s a hell of a long way to go but we’ve put ourselves in a half decent position, and an unbelievable position if you look at us at the end of September. We would have never contemplated being in the situation we are now, but we’re there on merit and we’ve got to make sure we apply ourselves in right way and carry it on.
This is your 19th season with AFC. Was there ever a point in your career where you considered leaving for other things?
No I’ve never wanted to leave. My move in 2007 was forced but luckily manager Eddie Howe brought me back in January 2009. I’ve had opportunities, and windows have come along a few times in the late 90’s/ early 00’s from some half decent clubs. But I’ve always thought the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Don’t get me wrong, I’m like any player (I’m different now at 39 ½ years old), I was ambitious when I was younger. But it had to be the right club and I just didn’t feel it was going to progress me any better than Bournemouth. Whether that would have proved right or wrong – who knows? But I don’t have any regrets.
I think I would be a liar if I said I don’t think about what could have happened, because you do. I know the clubs that came in and I look back and wonder – what if? But I’ve never turned round to myself and say “I wish I’d done that” or “I wish I’d taken that opportunity”, but you do sit there sometimes and look back on your career and wonder.
I have no regrets at all, I’ve had a fantastic 19 years here and another 18 months left on my contract, so hopefully there’s a few more scripts to written here!
What are some of the bigger clubs that came in for your signature?
I had an opportunity to go to QPR, Preston and Burnley, as well as Luton Town when they were in the Football League. For whatever reason it didn’t happen, but probably the biggest reason was that my heart was here. I would never swap the fantastic moments I’ve had in the 19 years I’ve been at Dean Court. I’ve had special moments that the majority of players don’t get ever in their career. Just to see my big ugly mug on the stand [outside Seward Stadium] has to be one of the most honourable things anyone can ever do for a player.
“I’ve been here half my life and don’t want to leave for nobody“
You stepped down as assistant manager in November 2011, how was it as an experience? Was it something you anticipated you’d be doing at this stage in your career, or was it more spontaneous?
I had contemplated it but it happened so quick. Me and Bradders [manager Lee Bradbury] were put into the position within days of Eddie Howe leaving [for Burnley]. I had a fantastic 10 months with a great insight into the club and how things happen, so I was enjoying both sides of playing and managing. People ask me whether at times I found it difficult – I didn’t. I found it fantastic; I could enjoy my football as well as having an input on how we play.
Why did you decide to hang up the managerial boots?
For whatever reasons, I just felt that at that time, (and I spoke to chairman Eddie Mitchell in depth) that it was probably best for me to go back to playing for the time being, and re-evaluate my situation. He’s offered me positions at the club as long as he’s involved and that’s fantastic. Hopefully, whether it’s at the end of this season, or next season, I’ll get back involved in the coaching side of things.
I see myself here. It’s my ambition to be part of the management set up at the club, whether it be next year, 3 years, 5 years, it’s something I want to do. I’ve been here half my life and I don’t want to leave for nobody really.
But you never know in football. It’s pointless saying I’m definitely going to do this or that because you just don’t know what happens in football. But if I had a choice, I would love to stay here and help the club progress.
In your last ever game for AFC, would you rather score a hat – trick and lose, or play poor and win?
Do the team play poorly?
Yeah, the team and you have a shocker.
[Immediately] Nah I’d rather score a hat-trick! (laughs). Now that is being very very selfish but if it’s going to be my last ever game I might as well leave with a bang! Unless the game was really important then I would obviously change it, but if there was nothing on the game I’d take the hat-trick.
Team quiz – Get to know the AFC Bournemouth changing room.
Warren Cummings, but best/ worst. Change that to ‘funniest’.
We haven’t really got any angry lads, they’re all quite placid really. Harry Arter, but mostly at himself.
[long, long deliberation] Probably captain Adam Barrett, he tries to do everything right.
Steven Cook, even he admits it himself.
Weirdest pre – game routine?
If they have they keep it to themselves because I haven’t seen anything! Stephane Zubar goes through a little routine, but keeps it to himself.
Any – pre game music?
I used to put it on, but Pierce, Taylor and even Pughey’s had a crack at it of late. There’s a variation depending on what we want to listen to. Thomas and Taylor like their Hip Hop and R&B, Symes likes his dance and Wally will dance along to Girls Aloud! It’s whoever gets in the room first and puts their iPod on!
Want the full picture? Check out the designed interview as it appeared in Nerve Magazine here!