Written by: Steve Clarke
The 4am start for Heathrow seemed worth it as I watched the sun setting on Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium. My mind went back to cold afternoons watching Boscombe in the old Third Division with my Dad back in the sixties – now this. The Cherries preparing for their next Premier League campaign in the warmth of Spain. I had to be there.
As it turned out Ryan Fraser’s goal was the highlight of the evening, but it was the next day that my trip became not only important to do but also massively educational. The reason? My twenty Euro tour of the legendary Nou Camp put a lot about the Cherries next steps into focus and in my mind it became an acronym. FC Barcelona showed me that for AFC Bournemouth it’s now a lot about the three S’s. I’ll explain more later.
Europe’s biggest stadium looms over the quiet working-class suburb of Les Corts like a concrete monster. This is no slickly skinned Spurs or Bayern Munich type venue. It’s big and brutal, a massive reflection of the desire to win and the burning sense of political injustice that created it.
Inside the amazing museum tells the story. Founded in 1899 by a mixed group of Europeans living in Spain – including two English brothers – the club rapidly found success under its first full-time manager, Englishman Jack Greenwell. But almost from the beginning, it was strongly enmeshed in Catalan politics with its passionately held desire for independence from the rest of Spain, a feature of the club to this very day. An early club president was murdered by right-wing soldiers and the Franco regime repeatedly warned Barca not to become a focus for Catalan independence.
But warnings were ignored and powered by that Catalan passion Barcelona thought big, building a 20,000 plus stadium in Les Corts in the 1920s and starting the fabled Nou Camp in 1954 – now Europe’s largest soccer venue at 98,000 plus. Today the stadium is both a home and a shrine to the club and it’s fans, almost literally, as in the atmospheric players tunnel there’s a small chapel where the nervous can pray for God to help them play better.
And what has this powerful cocktail produced? The highlight of the Museum is a perspex display cabinet four metres long on which spotlights are trained and inside it are the five – yes five – European Cups that Barca have won in the modern era. Each identical, each one built on the dream of FC Barcelona and it’s managers, players and supporters.
I left the Nou Camp literally stunned by what I had seen and asked myself what it meant for my team, for AFC Bournemouth. We can’t harness the power politics of Catalan independence or draw on one of Europe’s largest cities for our support. And yet, there were some pointers at the Nou Camp that I dubbed the 3 S’s. Could these be the ingredients a club needs to be great?
Story. Barcelona’s story of growth despite political repression in the past is amazingly uplifting. But Bournemouth has its story too. We sing about Eddie’s amazing achievement taking us through the divisions into the Premier League every week and it is amazing; surely one of the great tales of British and indeed world football. Stories can’t be bought, they have to be lived and earned and The Cherries have one and it’s a crucial building block for us.
Stadium. The Nou Camp is awe-inspiring, it lifts its players and terrifies its opponents. Of course, nothing like it will be built by Bournemouth. But something of its inspiration and fear factor needs to be captured in a new stadium soon. The need and the importance are obvious, it builds fans, it builds loyalty it builds the legend. Bournemouth cannot truly touch the big time without it. It’s something we’re missing.
Success. And what comes when an inspirational story and stadium mix together? With good management (which we currently have on and off the field) – success. These S’s are key ingredients to making Bournemouth a name as well known to football fans one day globally as Barcelona. It will probably take years, if it happens at all, but sitting in the stand of Barcelona’s Olympic stadium it’s hard not to dream. Maybe next year we’ll be sitting the Nou Camp itself for a friendly. I can’t wait.
It was a bit lethargic, disjointed and rusty. I would like to think the preseason fitness training has them all knackered. Ironically it seemed like the first-teamers who looked more worn out.
I noted with interest Jordon Ibe seemed to have a point to prove. Many people have commented that he rarely runs at defenders at pace, and when he does, eventually slows to walking pace anyway. He ran at players a few times, in the Fraser mould, only Ibe was most definitely more effective. If he plays like that next season he could be one of our best players. – Join the conversation, click here.