Bournemouth's Matt Ritchie backed to make Premier League splash by Jeff Stelling

Carlsberg TVC Launch Peter Schmeichel

The Soccer Saturday host tells HITC Sport that the Scotland international can make the Cherries tick in the big time.


We are now just a matter of hours away from AFC Bournemouth taking an historic step into the unknown.

For the first time in their 125-year history, the Cherries are a top-flight outfit and will be pitting their wits against English football’s elite in 2015/16.

It has been a rapid, and remarkable, rise by the South Coast club to this point, with fourth tier football taken in as recently as 2009/10.

Two promotions in the last three seasons have carried them from League One to the Premier League, with Eddie Howe having worked minor miracles during his two spells at the helm.

Still only 37 – the same age as Sylvain Distin, a player he has acquired as a free agent this summer – Howe is widely regarded as the finest young coach in the business.

He will now get the opportunity to enhance that reputation by locking managerial horns with the likes of Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal.

His players, who have bought whole-heartedly into the ball-playing philosophies implemented at Dean Court, also find themselves on the grandest of stages and under the brightest of spotlights.

There is little to suggest that any of them will freeze – given their exploits in recent seasons – with the fact that many are tipping the smallest club in the big time to hold their own and beat the drop telling you all you need to know about Bournemouth and their standing in the eyes of the footballing fraternity.

Among those hoping to prove that they are right where they belong is Matt Ritchie – a man, much like the club that employs him, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise from bottom to top, collecting numerous individual honours along the way.

Carlsberg TVC Launch Peter Schmeichel

The Scotland international is often the man to make the Cherries tick and Jeff Stelling, speaking at the filming of the new TV advert from Carlsberg that transforms a simple five-a-side kickabout into probably the best kickabout in the world, told HITC Sport during a phone interview that he is looking forward to seeing the 25-year-old at close quarters.

He said: “I haven’t seen much of Matt Ritchie but everyone I know in the game says that he is the real deal. He scored for Scotland the other month. Of all the headlines that Bournemouth make, as far as most people are concerned, he makes them tick. He had a phenomenal season last year.

“If you look at them, which players are of Premier League quality? Matt Ritchie would be in that category. I suppose we will find that out. He could have a really good year. They aren’t going to change their manner of play. They won’t get as much of the ball, but I think he’ll have a good season.”

Ritchie was an ever-present for Bournemouth in their Championship title-winning campaign in 2014/15, netting 15 times across his 46 appearances.

He also provided 17 assists, further highlighting how important he is going to be in a season which opens with a home date against Aston Villa on Saturday.

As the Official Beer of the Premier League, Carlsberg unveiled its latest “If Carlsberg Did…” TV advert during the traditional season curtain raiser between FA Cup winners Arsenal FC and Premier League champions Chelsea FC. Starring Jeff Stelling and Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, the new TV advert from the brand transforms a simple five-a-side kickabout into probably the best kickabout in the world. Watch the advert by clicking here.

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