Thursday, 30 June 2016

Meet the Coaches: Matt Le Tissier Natural Coaching's Joe Partington on his nine year journey with AFC Bournemouth

LOOKS THE PART: Joe acts as a fantastic role model
As the 2015/2016 season draws to a close, our Academy & Community Coach Joe Partington looks back on his nine year stint with AFC Bournemouth.

Joe played a part in "The Cherrie's" rise up through the ranks, from League Two to the Premier League.

Now, a key figure of Eastleigh FC, playing in the Vanarama National League, Joe hopes he can help "The Spitfires" climb up the Leagues and reduplicate the AFC Bournemouth success story of recent years.

I was 15 - just turned 16 maybe - when Portsmouth told me I wasn’t going to get a scholarship contract. I got a contact with Bournemouth and ended up playing a couple of trial games. Joe Roach invited me to join the youth team and I snapped it up.
I remember in my first year I only had a couple of opportunities to train with the first team. However, in my second year the club was having a lot of financial problems and a lot of the youth team lads ended up in training and on the bench. It was a blessing in disguise for us, because we wouldn’t have got that opportunity anywhere else.

My debut was Luton away. We ended up winning 4-1, Max Gradel scored a worldy. I came on towards the end of the game, I can’t even remember if I touched the ball, but it was a big moment for me.

Without a doubt my biggest moment that season was scoring the equaliser against Swansea. I came on for a few minutes, jumped up for a corner and closed my eyes - the ball hit me on the head and went in! I went a little bit mental; to do that when I was still a youth team player was pretty special.

At the end of that season we were going in one by one to find out if we had been offered professional deals. If I am honest, I wasn’t expecting to get one as there were some good players who missed out that season.

Kevin Bond wasn’t there himself, but Joe Roach delivered the news. He gave us a letter from the manager saying, ‘we’d like to invite you to turn professional’ - my mum has still got it somewhere!

I got my first start under Jimmy Quinn in a match at home to Bury.
He wasn’t at the club very long, but for some reason he saw something in me to give me a start. I had a volley that came of my heel and went in, so it ended up being a good full debut and something to remember.

I remember Eddie coming in, because he had worked with the reserves for a long time already. I’d been working with him for a while and had a good relationship with him already. I played in his first game as manager, but unfortunately we ended up losing it late on at Darlington.

I think Eddie sort of knew that perhaps I was just a little bit too young. Or perhaps in his eyes he wanted to go with something different to get results, but I wasn’t a main pick in the side. At that age it was still nice to be involved consistently and be half a part of something special when the lads stayed up.

In the build up to the 2012/13 I felt like I had done quite well in pre-season and I had come back fit. Still, I had no idea that I would be starting the first game of the season. As a boyhood Portsmouth fan, walking out onto the pitch at Fratton Park and being a part of the game will be something I always remember.

Lee Bradbury and I were good friends, we used to travel in together pretty much everyday. We were at Colchester away when Eddie was leaving for Burnley and Bradders said to me, ‘I think I might be involved in looking after the squad’. Obviously, he ended being manager on a permanent basis and you can’t start travelling in with the manager, so I had to start doing my own thing!

When Eddie came back we had a chat and he said he wanted to turn me into a defender. We worked hard together on the training ground to make the transition as best we could. You don’t appreciate how much of his effort and time go into making people improve until you leave and experience different managers and different coaches.

I blocked a shot by Jordan Chiedozie in training and my leg ended up twisting the wrong way round after it got caught in the ground. I went for an x-ray that afternoon and Steve Hard told me it was fractured. I was devastated at the time but what can you do?

During my recovery, I came in one morning and expected to train with the fitness coaches as normal. I spoke to Steve about something that didn’t look quite right on my leg. He sent a photo to the surgeon and they called me in to operate on an infection the same day.

I ended up have three operations in a week. That period obviously wasn’t too positive for me, but If Steve hadn’t referred me to the surgeon when he did, God knows what would have happened to my leg!

Even though I was part of the sides that had success at AFC Bournemouth, I am not going to kid myself and say that I was a massive part of it. Every season that I was there the lads were so successful and winning games that it was difficult for me to get in, and even more difficult to stay in.

There wasn’t really any conversation at the end of my final season, it was just a mutual thing and we didn’t have to speak about it. I went in to see Eddie to say thank you and let him know how much I appreciated everything he had done for me as a coach and towards me as a person as well.

My best friend at Bournemouth? Without a doubt Steve Cook. We lived together for about three or four years, we were always a positive influence on each other. To this day, I am certain that Cooky and I are the best FIFA partnership the club has ever seen.