The word 'legend' could have been created specifically to describe Steve Fletcher.

'Fletch' has made an incredible 688 appearances for Bournemouth in two spells at Dean Court, and could potentially bring down the curtain on a 21-year career with his greatest achievement yet.

Bournemouth face Huddersfield in the npower League One playoff semi-final - with the first leg on Saturday afternoon - and 38-year-old Fletcher is desperate to seal promotion to the second-tier of English football for the first time in his career.

Whether of not the Dorset club will be playing in the npower Championship next season remains to be seen, but Fletcher - who is also the Cherries' assistant manager - already has his name weaved into the tapestry at Bournemouth.

The Hartlepool-born striker also has the privilege of having a stand named in his honour - quite an accolade indeed for someone still playing an active role in the first-team.

But what does Fletcher make of having his name (and face) emblazoned across the old North Stand? Bournemouth's record-appearance holder spoke exclusively to Givemefootball's Will Haine...

Q: Having a stand named after you during your playing days is pretty unique. You must feel very privileged?

A: I actuality get a bit of stick from opposition defenders who say 'Fletch, do I have to look up at your ugly mug for 45 minutes?', because they've got to stare up at my big face behind the goal.

But it was an absolute honour and a proud moment in my career and it made me feel so humble that this happened while I'm still playing.

Normally it's reserved for players who have retired or have passed away. We're still actually trying to find out if I'm the only player in history to have a stand named after them while they're playing - that'd be a very nice thing to have. But at the moment nobody has come back to say any different, so I guess I could be the only one!

Q: Every game you play now is a new Bournemouth record. How does your previous experience - especially of the playoffs - help the younger members of the squad?

A: Yeah, I suppose the fact that I experienced the playoffs in 2003 does help. I know what they're about, with the pressure and the potential euphoria that comes with them. I was lucky enough to win [in 2003] when we beat Lincoln 5-2 at the Millennium Stadium, so I've been there and done it in that respect.

But, on the other hand, I've never been in the League One playoffs so it's also a new experience for myself. If we get promoted, it'll be the highest level I've played at in my 21-year career. I just hope it has a fairytale ending as I haven't got too many years left to achieve it.

Q: You were in the automatic spots for a significant amount of the season but ended up finishing sixth. But, having only been promoted last season, how much of an achievement is it to get to this stage?

A: We've had a fantastic season, and it could be even better if we achieve something that everybody thought was virtually impossible at the start of the season in terms of getting to the Championship. It's been a good season, but it'd be better if I was talking to you in three weeks time and we've had a great season.

We were in the automatic spots for a while and that was a credit to everyone. Nobody expected us to be sitting in second at the end of February.

We were there because we deserved to be and we were there in good company - Peterborough, MK Dons and other good teams with big budgets and players who have played in the Championship and Premier League.

The only thing lacking from us, perhaps, was a lack of experience of being in that position - most of our players have never been higher that League One.




 

Q: Losing manager Eddie Howe to Burnley in January must have been a huge blow to yourself and the rest of the players?

A: I was good friends with Eddie and I was involved a little bit with him, being a bit older than the rest of the squad. He actually told me the day before he told the players that he had accepted the offer from Burnley, but earlier on in that week there had been interest from Charlton and Crystal Palace.

I was hoping that he would stay but, looking back, it's given myself and [Bournemouth boss] Lee Bradbury a fantastic opportunity and, while I'm still playing, I've got the best of both worlds.

Q: Yes, Eddie leaving has changed your role, hasn't it?

A. Yes, and obviously there's extra pressure know. I can't just get home from training at one o'clock and chill out, pick the kids up from school etc. Now I'm straight back to the office with Lee after training and we go out to watch games - which is something I've always wanted to do. It's not like I wasn't prepared for it.

Q: What about facing Huddersfield in the playoffs then - they got so close to automatic promotion themselves…

A: From their point of view, they're probably wondering what they had to do to get promoted - 24 games undefeated is absolutely phenomenal. Any other season than this and they would have done enough to go up automatically and would be chilling out on a beach somewhere right now!

From our point of view, we hope they're going to be a little bit deflated but Lee Clark has got them playing well. They've got some experienced players, some very good players and we know we have a tough task ahead of us. But we've got to go into the game full of confidence.

We drew twice with them during the season and played very well in both games and we were very unfortunate not to win the home game after they equalised in stoppage time. But we can take confidence out of that, although we know the enormity of the task ahead.

Q: Finally, should you progress to the final, you'll be playing at Old Trafford. Is there any sense of disappointment that you won't be able to play at Wembley?

A: If you're not going to play at the new Wembley, then the next best place would be Old Trafford. Although, if we were guaranteed a place in the final, we'd play in the field over the back of the stadium!

Topics:
#Football
#Bournemouth
#League One
#Steve Fletcher