Within moments of the final whistle, red smoke was billowing from the midfield area that had been so fiercely contested during the previous 98 minutes. Bournemouth’s pitch had been filled by jubilant fans from every conceivable demographic: right up to the woman who, supported by a crutch, waved a Colombia flag in the air to honour Jefferson Lerma. Inside the dressing room her hero was otherwise engaged, shaking a champagne bottle vigorously enough to ensure that the club chairman, Jeff Mostyn, had no chance of escaping a soaking.
Mostyn will be thrilled to pay the dry-cleaning bill. This promotion does not brim with the romance of their first ascent to the top flight, infused though that was by the ample resources of their Russia-born owner Maxim Demin, but it comes with its own measure of intense satisfaction. In their second season after relegation Bournemouth needed to show they had the resilience, as a club, to bounce back and avoid a longer-term slide into the second tier’s morass of speculators and water-treaders. They have done so with this win and it is also a triumph for Scott Parker just 51 weeks after a relegation with Fulham that left him, in his own words, “hurt and gutted”.
This time, after a slightly fractious couple of attempts to clear the surface ended successfully, Parker was able to address his public amid a warm glow. “This group are a special group,” he told the crowd. “I’m immensely proud of what they’ve done. They deserve their moment and they deserve to be in the Premier League.” Later on, to a far smaller audience, he struck a reflective note. “I’m emotional, of course I am,” he said, before promising to break the habit of a career and allow himself to get lost in the moment over a couple of beers. His three seasons in management have brought two ascents and last season’s punch to the stomach. “If you’d told me, growing up in inner London, that I’d have these opportunities I’d have bitten your hand off.” His primary focus, though, was on the collective who saw Bournemouth home. They initially made hard work of it against a Nottingham Forest side that had momentum, a buoyant away support, pace to burn on the counterattack and a chance to take control of the race for second place with three points.
Steve Cooper’s players may well return their club to the top, for the first time since 1999, through the playoffs and it would be one of the season’s most thrilling stories. Had Sam Surridge not struck the bar after nine minutes, and had they been awarded a penalty before half-time when the striker was incorrectly ruled offside as Mark Travers clipped him, history might have been reshaped. “The referee [Stuart Attwell] and the linesman have just pulled me in to apologise, they’ve owned up to a huge error,” said an exasperated Cooper.
Ultimately both sides got what, on the night and across the full campaign, they deserved. Bournemouth emerged from the interval an entirely different proposition and dominated the second half, at least until an eight-minute period of stoppage time that saw the Forest keeper Brice Samba advance for a corner and flick narrowly over. Their winner was wonderfully worked and conjured its own happy subplot.
Kieffer Moore fractured his foot three minutes into his Bournemouth career after a mid-season move from Cardiff and it was miraculous enough that, despite suffering a setback, he was able to leave the bench and score twice in a comeback draw against Swansea last week.
This time Parker deployed him for the final half-hour and, when Jordan Zemura won a free‑kick near the 18-yard line, Moore stationed himself on the left of the box. Nobody paid much attention: the situation was ripe for Philip Billing to have a crack.
Billing ran up and, fooling everyone, laid the ball to Moore. The finish was first-time, unerring and placed perfectly across Samba; it was a touch of guile from a 6ft 5in striker of many gifts, and Bournemouth were back in the big time.
“It was off the cuff: good players showing their initiative and being incredible,” Parker said of the routine. “It’s an amazing story. [Moore]deserves this moment.”
Even so it had little on the pre-match announcement that David Brooks, Bournemouth’s gifted schemer, has been given the all‑clear from the stage two Hodgkin lymphoma with which he was diagnosed in October.
“The news we got today was incredible,” Parker said. “The club, the team, were rocked when we heard the [diagnosis] and it put things in perspective.”
Brooks will grace the Premier League, and Parker has another chance to shape a team that can do the same.