Date: 22nd April 2020 at 10:00am
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Written by kirsikka

Preview – Josh Gowling

Central defender Josh Gowling, then 21, signed for AFC Bournemouth after a trial period in summer of 2005 when Sean O’Driscoll was still the manager and the club were a top third League One outfit. The previous season we’d missed out on making the playoffs by a solitary point after a heart wrenching two defeats and a draw in our last three games.

He came to us after a spell at Danish side Herfølge. These days there are a smattering of English players spread in seemingly every country but even fifteen years ago this was a lot less common. I think it was a mark of his character that at a time when it was much more unusual, he took it upon himself to go and get game time in a foreign league in his desire to succeed.

Josh spent three seasons at the club, each year making more appearances for the Cherries than the prior one finishing having represented us 94 times. His ball-playing defensive style and quick turn of pace led some to label him as a lower league Rio Ferdinand.

His time with us saw him take big steps forward on the pitch even as the club was taking large steps backwards. The club finished 17th in 2005/06 and, although we started the 06/07 season very well, SOD was poached by then League One moneybags Doncaster Rovers in September and replaced by Kevin Bond. The season went into reverse and we finished 17th.

His final year was the most tumultuous. The constant off-field financial pressure that had been smothering the club finally came to a head in February 2008 and the club went into administration. On the pitch, the season to that point hadn’t been going well and the club was already in the relegation zone when an automatic 10 point penalty was applied to push the club further into trouble, leaving the club 11 points from safety.

Whether it was that which galvanised the team or Bond’s footballing plans finally started paying off we’ll never know. All we can say is the team started to pick up results with Josh a stalwart in defence. Six wins on the trot left us searching for a win on the final day of the season, an away trip to promotion-chasing Carlisle United, to stay in League One.

It wasn’t to be as a 0-0 draw and results elsewhere not going our way condemned us to League Two and meant Josh’s spell at the club ended in disappointing fashion for all. That summer he moved to the aforementioned Carlisle on a free transfer as his contract had expired.

After a number of seasons playing League One football, he played for a few non-league clubs. Then in December 2018, he signed for Hereford, a phoenix club formed in 2014 following the dissolution of Hereford United. Looking at their kit, he obviously likes red and black stripes!

In January 2020, when manager Russell Slade left, he was appointed their interim manager, a position that remains interim whilst the football world is on hold. They currently play in the National League North, which is the sixth tier of football in England.

Interview Part 1

=== SIGNING ===

You came to the club via a trial spell after time in Denmark. Did you have other trials lined up or were you banking on us at that time?

“No this was my only option, I knew Richard O’Kelly, he was my youth coach at West Brom, so I reached out to him and he got me in.

How much did you know about the club before you signed? Were you aware of its history of financial problems?

“I knew a little bit about the club obviously from Rich but didn’t know the financial difficulties that the club had been in.

=== PLAYING / PLAYERS ===

You always seemed quite an elegant defender. Did you model your play on someone in particular or try to take inspiration from a selection of players?

“The one player I probably looked at most as a child was Maldini, the way he played the game was something I’d never seen before and I wanted to have the grace that he did.

Which centre back do you think you played best alongside at the club?

“Hmmm I played with quite a few, I think me and Jason Pearce had a pretty good partnership. I also liked playing with Broady (Karl Broadhurst) because he had the experience to talk me through the game and I had the legs to do all his running hahahha.

Steve Claridge said that when he was at the club, you applied yourself really well in training. Did you enjoy training or was it purely commitment to improving that made you work so hard at that side of things?

“I always wanted to improve so I had to work hard, also when you come into a team that have been together for a while you have to prove yourself so that makes you train hard every day. The experienced pros like Neil Young and Fletch expected high levels from you so that always drove you.

Who did you dread playing against in training?

“That had to be Stephen Cooke, he had the most ability of anyone I ever played against. If you weren’t careful you would find yourself on the end of a few megs in training hahha.

Were you ever envious of a chant or song one of your teammates got at the club? If so, which one(s)?

“No never, I think if you have a chant you have deserved it because of what you have been doing on the pitch.

Aside from the obvious reality of the points deduction, did the off-field financial issues filter into the dressing room at all or were the players mostly oblivious to it?

“Yes, it filtered down, obviously when you’re not getting paid it’s very difficult. Players had mortgages and families to look after so obviously that affected things a little but the lads always stayed professional and focused.

In your last season with us, was there any anger from the players towards the owners because they’d let you down and cost you points through nothing you had done?

“No obviously it was disappointing but the lads loved the club and just wanted to turn things around.

What was your single favourite piece of play from you in an AFCB shirt? Don’t be modest, tell it as you saw it!

“I know it’s pretty boring but there was a tackle against a player from Carlisle, who is now my best friend, Simon Hackney. He’d skipped past a few players and then slightly overran it, and I hit him in a 50/50 and he went flying and to this day I can still hear the crowd roar.

Did you ever read the fan-written reports of matches? If so, did they ever affect you?

“No, I tried to stay away from all of that. I think when things are going well they are great and your confidence is high so any criticism you take with a pinch of salt but when things are not going well for you those comments can affect you a little, so I tended to stay away from that stuff.

Did the stadium only having three sides bother you or the other players?

“No, not really, I loved playing at home, amazing pitch and amazing fans.

Continued in part 2.

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