ON THE ROAD: Hollowing out of the Cherries shows top job may be a poisoned chalice as rebuilding Bournemouth was a thankless task for axed manager Jason Tindall
- Jason Tindall was sacked as Bournemouth manager after a six-month spell
- There were numerous lay-offs after their relegation to the Championship
- The club recouped £80m in player sales but there was no outlay on new players
- Tindall admitted that he felt his time at the club was coming to its end date
- Bournemouth were held to a 0-0 draw away at Nottingham Forest on Saturday
After relegation had come and Eddie Howe had gone, Bournemouth underwent a hollowing out.
There were lay-offs. Three club masseurs left, along with a sports scientists, albeit one new physio came in. And though the club’s reaped £80m by selling the best players, there was no outlay on new ones. Russian owner Maxim Demin issued a statement after the club had dropped, declaring they’d be straight back. This seemed a strange way of showing it.
At least the club had Jason Tindall, who over 12 years as Howe’s right-hand man had been involved in identifying and bringing through players like Matt Ritchie, Callum Wilson and Harry Arter. He wasn’t initially sure when the club asked him if he was interested in succeeding Howe but he called them back to say ‘yes.’
Jason Tindall was axed as Bournemouth manager six months after his appointment at the club
Bournemouth recouped £80m on players in the summer with no outlay on new signings
Tindall was a good man for what looked like a possible looming crisis. He subsequently blooded a number of the club’s academy players: Gavin Kilkenney, Nnamdi Ofoborth, 16-year-old Ajani Burchall, Jayden Anthony and Jordan Zemura.
He told Junior Stanislas, a player he and Howe signed to Burnley before Bournemouth, that he needed him to be the man this season. He’s scored 10 in 22 games.
But relegation in a time of Covid is an unsparing and unrelenting experience. Those players who left – Nathan Ake, Callum Wilson and Charlie Daniels – happened to be the glue which bound the squad together.
Aaron Ramsdale, lost to Sheffield United, was the life and soul: a particularly close friend of David Brooks, who has been struggling for form. In total, 11 players left and three bids for new ones were rejected.
There were three weeks to prepare for a first season back in the Championship and, not unreasonably those left behind wanted to know what was happening.
‘There’s a real feeling from players of “what’s going on?” in that situation,’ Tindall tells Sportsmail. ‘All of a sudden everyone’s going and no one’s coming in. You try to explain what’s happening to the club, what with the pandemic, being relegated and everything else. But it’s not easy.’
Howe’s Bournemouth succeeded by being better than the sum of their parts. But re-discovering the team spirit is harder when the spine of a team has gone and the rest are changing in three separate dressing rooms at training. When it’s two to a table in the pared down canteen and even the dart board has gone because of Covid protocols.
It was remarkable, all told, that Bournemouth initially kept up with pace towards the top of the table. They were undefeated through September and October, by which time Tindall was the last manager in the top six divisions of the pyramid not to have lost a match.
Coach Jonathan Woodgate has been made interim manager for the time being at the club
They were fourth, two points off the automatic play-off spots in early November, when it was made known to Tindall that there was concern from those above him about results. A first defeat – 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday – had followed a run of four draws in five. It created pressure ahead of the imminent away match at Birmingham but the team won that – and the next two.
They’d gone on to lose just two in 11 before defeats to Luton and Derby when Tindall was told things had changed and that he would now be judged on a game-by-game basis. An alternative may be considered if things did not improve. The team were still sixth, four points off the automatic play-off spots.
‘To be honest, harsh reality struck at that point,’ Tindall says. ‘I thought to myself, “Is there going to be a phone call every time there’s a bump in the road?” I’d pretty much never been out of the top four at that point. I felt then that my time might be coming to an end.’
The fact that board took up his recommendations about installing some experience in during the January window – campaigners Shane Long (loaned from Southampton), Ben Pearson (a free from Preston) and free agent Jack Wilshere, who knew Tindall from his Bournemouth loan spell of 2016 – gave him some hope.
All three arrived. The loss of coach Graeme Jones to Newcastle was a blow but Jonathan Woodgate was recommended to the club by an intermediary.
After a conversation with Woodgate, Tindall encouraged that move. A few days later, Tindall was sacked. The team were still sixth: within the play-off positions, which they had not dropped out of all season.
Tindall says he hoped after player sales he would have funds to start to build his own team
The arrival of Jack Wilshere gave Tindall some hope as he looked to add experience to the team
Briefly, at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, there was a glimpse of Tindall’s vision for the future, when two of the players he had brought in combined to produce the afternoon’s single moment of class.
Wilshere let a ball run across him, eased away from Forest’s James Garner and bent a gorgeous pass with the outside of his left foot to engineer a break-away down the left. Long leapt fractionally early for an e ensuing cross and sent the header over.
Pearson provided steel at the back of midfield. But otherwise, the build-up was disjointed and ponderous on a poor pitch, opportunities scare and Long isolated. Wilshere’s drift into anonymity was a tragedy considering how much a moribund game required his gifts.
He departed just beyond the hour. Norwich and Watford, last season’s other two relegated teams, were powering to big home wins. Their squads have certainly not been stripped bare.
Tindall agonises over whether he could have done more to keep his job. ‘Perhaps if we’d not started so well, there’d have been less expectation. Maybe things might have been different.’
It’s surprising that a club he was so integral should have been so quick to dispense with him. But his track record there, helping find players and drive success through the divisions, speaks for itself. He will look to get back into the game when the opportunity presents itself. He is still only 43.
Briefly, during the 0-0 draw with Forest, there were glimpses of Tindall’s vision for the future
‘’I do want to get back into the game in some capacity – and after three promotions and five years working in the Premier League I do feel I have something to offer,’ he says. ‘Finding players and seeing them develop is the part I’ve always loved most.’
Interviews are thought to have been held for Bournemouth’s managerial vacancy, with David Wagner the favourite, though still no word from Demin. But the past seven months suggests it might be a poisoned chalice.
‘I knew the situation when I took the job,’ Tindall reflects. ‘But when you recoup almost £80m in player sales, I imagine every manager up and down the country would anticipate a little bit of that to start to build their own team. I’m sure that would have helped.’
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