Football’s back! Dan Brigham looks ahead to the Bournemouth match with Cherries fan and writer Gareth Davies, who sheds interesting light on Lewis Grabban, abuses Norwich’s kit (fair), and reveals his love for Jonny Howson (also fair)
Dan: Hi Gareth. So, let's get this question out of the way: were you the one hiding Lewis Grabban?
Gareth: I thought you might have waited a little bit before asking about this particular subject! Isn't there a game on Saturday to talk about?! I haven't been hiding Lewis Grabban, but just like all Norwich fans – and some at Dean Court too – I'd like to know who was.
I have a more plausible reason for his period of exile however: the shock of being asked to play in that hideous kit against Rotherham. What a ghastly creation! Little wonder Grabban did a runner, as it's up there with the Jeremy Goss-inspired ‘egg 'n' cress’ ensemble as Norwich's worst ever. See, I've ducked that one particularly well I think, although I reckon you may not have quite finished with Mr Grabban yet...
Dan: The egg 'n' cress/bird poo/tango-vomit kit is a thing of ugly beauty. Leave it alone.
I must admit I've always rated Grabban highly, and think he could be highly effective in the Premier League if he stopped being a massive sulky child. It’s good that he apologised on Thursday night, although he's not in contention for the game on Saturday. How do Bournemouth fans rate him, and would you have him back?
Gareth: Ugly beauty? That's one way if putting it I suppose!
I'm with you in regards to Grabban's potential to be a very accomplished player at the top level. Sulky child though? Of course that's how it's being perceived, but how much of this was the player’s doing and how much was it down to an agent wanting to line his pockets again?
I'm going with the latter as this sorry tale nearly had a previous episode when Grabban's agent tried to get him a move to Brighton in 2014. It collapsed when we offered him a new contract, with a greatly improved buy-out clause, one Norwich met just over a year ago. I don't think Grabban has scaled the heights at Carrow Road the way he did during that final goal-laden Cherries campaign in 2013-14, but that doesn't make him a bad player overnight.
The emergence of Callum Wilson has seen many of our supporters think that selling Grabban was a blessing as his replacement has done so well, but how good would our squad look with both of them within it? A lot healthier than at present because if Wilson gets injured, where is our main goal threat? So given these factors, I think it's crazy that some fans were not wanting a return to Dean Court for Norwich's finest Lord Lucan impersonator. The only sticking point for me was the price tag. £8 million is an awful lot for an unproven PL striker.
Dan: It's all pretty sad, really, but following his aology I can see a future at Norwich for Grabban. Also, we've signed Dieumerci Mbokani who'll hopefully bring much-needed finishing prowess (or at least, judging by reports, some elbow-induced red cards).
How do you assess Bournemouth's transfer window, and the loss of your big signings Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel to lengthy injuries? Are you worried?
Gareth: Underwhelmed was a word that featured prominently in a piece I wrote for the BBC last week as not only did the Grabban deal fall through at the 11th hour, so did the signing of Napoli midfielder Jonathan de Guzmán. He was excellent for Swansea a couple of seasons ago and would have been a real coup for us, especially with the continuing injury problems for our star turn in midfield, Harry Arter.
Given the start that Charlie Daniels made to the campaign at left-back, the Mings injury doesn't, on the face of it, appear too bad, except Mings’ 14 minute cameo was because Daniels himself had gone off injured. I'm sure many Norwich fans, due to Mings' Ipswich association, may not feel that sympathetic, but the poor lad has perhaps the worst footballing injury possible.
Gradel is out for six months and is more of a worry, as he had shown sings of the form that saw him plunder 17 goals in the French top flight last season. We do have cover in his position though, but the problems at left-back saw Eddie Howe sign Joe Bennett for six months from Aston Villa. He spent last year on loan at Brighton – now you can see why I said underwhelming.
Dan: I think Charlie Daniels appears to be touch and go for Saturday, so Nathan Redmond may be rubbing his hands in anticipation.
With the window shut, how do you assess Bournemouth's survival chances this season? I'm a big Eddie Howe fan-boy, but from a neutral perspective you look a little light in central midfield without a real ball-winner in there and, like Norwich, your defence may well be giving you nightmares every weekend. Is that fair?
Gareth: Fingers crossed Daniels is fit as I've always been impressed with the boy Redmond.
I am going to make a bold prediction here that we will survive and do so comfortably too. I think the we play negates a need for an old-fashioned 'animal' in midfield. Andrew Surman, the player deemed surplus to requirements at Carrow Road, does a decent job in the holding role without having an overly aggressive style of play. So much so that I thought he was our best player last year without winning the plaudits that others did.
As I've eluded to earlier, though, our biggest loss at the moment is Arter. He made us tick last year and scored some spectacular goals too, and without him we don't look as creative.
Defensively we have always looked a bit suspect from setpieces and crosses, which is bemusing as we have two centre-backs for a manager and assistant plus all our regular back four are 6ft-plus. Last season we were so good going forward it didn't really matter about conceding silly goals, and at Premier League level we may get found out, but I think we'll still have enough to survive if our attacking players carry on where they left off in the Championship.
Dan: Wow, that is bold. Sounds like you've bought into the media hype!
So, before, moving onto the game on Saturday, what is it like for a Bournemouth fan seeing their team in the Premier League for the first time? Have you already become deeply cynical about the whole thing or determined to enjoy it?
Gareth: Surreal would be the best way to describe being in the Premier League. Without wanting to bore everyone with the story that's been retold umpteen times over the past six months… well, I will anyway: when we were second bottom of League Two, well adrift of safety on New Year’s Eve 2008, prior to Howe's first appointment, just surviving in the Football League was seen as a real achievement.
Obviously a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, with the combination of financial backing and a young, vibrant English manager meaning a rapid descent upwards.
Personally, I have always been sceptical about the Premier League because of the money involved and how if it was shared a little more equally, we may have not got ourselves in the brown stuff three times in 10 years. Now we've reached the promised land, despite lots of disgruntled murmurings about tickets and non arrival of replica shirts, I will embrace every minute as it was such a wild fantasy back in those dark days of Jimmy Quinn's disastrous spell – pre-Howe – in charge, one which looked like it could spell the end for AFC Bournemouth.
Dan: It’s a genuinely lovely sporting story, but then Bournemouth went and ruined it all by spending £8m on Tyrone Mings. Unforgiveable.
Right. Saturday. Are we likely to see Bournemouth set up in the same way they did in the Championship? And where will Norwich be looking to exploit?
Gareth: Absolutely. It’s not that Howe doesn't know any other way, but when you have so much success adopting a certain style and approach then why change? Of course we're not going to be able to play that all-guns-blazing style at every away ground but, without sound disrespectful, Norwich are a team that we will want to beat as both sides’ aims for the season are the same: survival (although I think Norwich may, like us, comfortably avoid the drop).
One area you will obviously look at as a focal point for any weakness could be at left-back if Daniels is deemed unfit to start, although perhaps I'm being harsh on Joe Bennett. The reason for scepticism being that last time we had a left-back crisis, in League One, Howe made a rare error in signing a lad called Marcos Painter from Brighton and he was incredibly bad, despite being well thought of at the Amex.
Another intriguing battle will be in the centre of midfield. This game, sadly, looks a week to soon for Arter so it will probably be Eunan O'Kane deputising and the Irishman didn't cover himself in glory last time out against Leicester, giving the ball away for their equalising penalty. His opposite number on Saturday might be Jonny Howson, a player I've always had a lot of time for, even if he did play for Leeds. He bossed the midfield in the game at Dean Court back in January and if he does it again in this upcoming fixture, Bournemouth could be in for a tough afternoon.
Dan: Well, like any reasonable human being, I always have a lot of time for someone with a soft spot for Jonny H. Funny that it was his sending off that seemed to turns things around at Dean Court in Alex Neil's first game.
Our strongest area is by far our midfield, so Arter being out will be a big bonus for us. And I quite like the thought of Robbie Brady whipping corners and free-kicks in against your setpiece-allergic defence.
So, final questions. Where do you think Bournemouth will finish, where do you think Norwich will finish and score prediction for Saturday?
Gareth: The same scoreline from when the teams played each other at Carrow Road in the Championship is my prediction – 1-1. We would be happy with that and I guess you would too, especially after the disappointing loss to our noisy neighbours up the road last time out.
Finishing positions? Well you know my thoughts on Bournemouth – we will be a Premier League side next season. As for Norwich, I've always thought that two of the three promoted sides would stay up and Watford wouldn't be one of those.
Dan: Cheers Gareth. I was pretty confident that Bournemouth would survive at the start of the season, but after losing Gradel and not reinforcing central midfield I’m not so confident now (Surman struggled the few times he played as a holding midfielder for us in the Prem). Do hope you survive though – the Premier League is a better place with Eddie Howe.
I’m going 2-1 Norwich – and I don't think we would be at all happy with a draw as we've yet to win at home this season. We always get a reaction after a poor performance, and you don’t get much poorer than the one against Southampton. Mbokani to come off the bench, elbow a couple of defenders and bulldoze in the winner.
Gareth Davies is a Bournemouth fan, writer and contributor to the Cherries match-day programme. He tweets at @garphied