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 2 (click here for Part 1)

=== LEAVING ===

If the club had stayed up, do you think you would have signed a new deal with us?

“The honest answer is no, I wanted to test myself. I think at the time I possibly got a bit comfortable and wanted to test myself.

Football fans are fickle, especially so when a player leaves. So it was no surprise to see a certain amount of grief posted your way on AFCB forums when of a quote appeared on the official Carlisle website saying you wanted to move closer to home (Walsall) but Carlisle is further away than Bournemouth. Was it a misquote or what happened? This is your chance to set the record straight after all this time!

“I think this is something that has possibly made me sad over the years. So I loved the club, it gave me my professional debut in England and I loved it there. Even when I go back now it feels like home. The year leading up to me leaving, I didn’t see eye to eye with the manager. In the press, I said some things because I didn’t feel that undermining someone at that stage in my career would be beneficial for me. So I changed the narrative.

“What I will say is that looking back on it, I never live with regrets but I think I left to early and I possibly should have swallowed my pride a little and stayed.

=== MANAGEMENT ===

Did Sean O’Driscoll ever shout at players in the dressing room or was he as quiet there as he sometimes appeared to be?

“Sean definitely had his moments hahha. He was a bit of both really. He was the best manager I ever played under, he was meticulous with his detail.

Kevin Bond never really left much of a mark in the minds of AFCB fans and, apart from that wonder run that nearly kept us up, his overall record wasn’t great. However, to be fair to him, we were only relegated because of the points deduction without which we would have finished mid-table. What was he like to play under? If we’d snuck a win at Carlisle and stayed up do you think that team under him could have carried the form through to the next season?

“The team that year really banded together and we were so unlucky in the end, but the club was in the situation it was and to be honest if you look at us now it was probably the best thing that could happen. We went down the club got itself back together over a period of time and now look where it is.

Eddie Howe often visits other managers to observe their processes, most famously early on in his career, he spent time at Swansea when Brendan Rodgers was making an impact. Do you have plans to copy that method and so might we see you wandering around the training facilities at AFCB at some point?

“Yes definitely, I’ve been in contact with a few managers and will be looking to go in and get some ideas and lean on all that experience, Eddie is definitely on my hit list hahaha.

Equally, having played alongside Eddie for a couple of years, might you be giving him a call to see if he’s got any great prospects in need of some first-team football when football restarts?

“Bournemouth to Hereford is a bit of a distance so not just yet.

The Christmas after you left AFCB reached it’s nadir before Eddie Howe took over and the fortunes began to change. Do you ever wonder what may have been if you’d stayed and then played under him? To me, it feels like you were exactly the kind of player that would have thrived under him and were at exactly the right age to come up through the leagues with us.

“Like I said looking back on it I think I should have stayed but I moved for the right and the wrong reasons. One I felt like I possibly needed a new challenge and 2 because of the situation I was in. But I would have loved to have done what some of the lads have done there, and go through the leagues with them.

If you could magically sign one player from your time at AFCB, as they were then, for your Hereford team today who would you take and why?

“James Hayter. The guy was an absolute goal machine and he worked his socks off, in training, in games, you knew what you were going to get from him every week.

Many thanks to Josh Gowling for taking the time out to answer every single question I put to him. You can find him on Twitter at @joshgowling  if you want to follow his fortunes as a career in football management seems to be beginning.

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