Howe looks back at debut campaign

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe admits that his side's debut campaign in the Premier League could so easily have turned into a nightmare.

Howe exuded confidence and optimism since day one at the promoted club and revealed that this season was a real test of character as they managed to retain their top-flight status in the midst of an injury crisis to key players in the early months.

Long-term injures to club captain Tommy Elphick, top-scorer Callum Wilson and Harry Arter saw the team's spine totally ripped out. Then to add insult to injury, winger Max Gradel and left-back Tyrone Mings both suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage after signing for a combined fee of £21.3 million during the off-season.

"When you are in the moment, there is nothing positive to be gained from highlighting the fact you are missing some key players," Howe told the Daily Echo.

"We wanted to carry on and to try to get the best out of the players we had available. That has always been our method of working.

"The guys who have been fit all season have been an absolute credit to the football club. As a squad, they had to regroup and find the fight to go again and prove everybody wrong.

"Thankfully, the spirit we have had throughout our time here hasn't diminished and the players went on to some even greater performances than they had given previously. That's the best compliment I can give them."

Elphick played almost every minute of their promotion-winning campaign the year before, while Wilson hit 20 league goals and Arter was crowned Player of the Season.

"It was a huge blow to lose these players and the worry I had was the effect it would have on the rest of the squad," Howe added.

"It can eat away at the confidence and self-belief when you see players going down injured. It was a tough examination of our resources, our character and our ability to bounce back and it took a few games but we did and the lads responded superbly.

"At the time, it felt as if things were going against us and we had to shake away the excuses because the mind is a very powerful thing. If you allow an excuse to develop then the sub-conscious will take it but, thankfully, we didn't.

"We were desperate to get the players fit as quickly as we could but also knew we had to focus on the players who were available.

"A lot of the players in the squad really stepped up and that was key. They didn't shirk from the challenge, they embraced it, faced it and we ended up getting some great results in and around that spell."