Interview: Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane

AFC Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane celebrates scoring against Wigan on January 5, 2013
© Martin Rickett / PA Photos
Sports Mole catches up with Bournemouth's Irish midfielder Eunan O'Kane to discuss promotion and manager Eddie Howe.

When Eunan O'Kane completed his switch from Torquay United to Bournemouth last summer, he arrived at Dean Court having made a real impression in League Two.

The 22-year-old has seemingly built upon those performances and has become a regular in Eddie Howe's team as the Cherries sit on the cusp of gaining promotion to the Championship.

Sports Mole caught up with the midfielder to discuss Howe's influence at the club, their chances of going up automatically and how the team would fare in the second tier of English football.

With two matches left to play, you're second in the League One table. How are the nerves inside the dressing room?
"To be honest there doesn't really seem to be any nerves, considering how close we are and you think about how far away we were before the gaffer came in. It's a position that I don't think anyone in the dressing room expected us to be in. I think everyone is just enjoying it and embracing it as opposed to being nervous and anxious about it."

Brentford are breathing down your necks though - are you confident that the team will be able to deal with the pressure?
"Doncaster are only two points above us [as well] and they have to play each other on the last day of the season. There's a lot still to play for and one of them two, or both, is obviously going to drop points.

"From our point of view, all we can do is win our last two games and on the last day of the season, if that's enough to get us up, great. If not, and we have to go into the playoffs, although it may be a bit of a let-down that we didn't get over the line and get up automatically, we'll be ready. On our day we feel that we can take on anyone, especially over two legs. If we get in the top two that's good but if we have to do it the hard way then we are prepared to do that."

We've seen so often that the side that finishes third and just misses out on automatic promotion actually struggles in the playoffs. You say that the team would be "prepared", but it would be a big disappointment to find yourself in there, wouldn't it?
"No-one has been really speaking about the playoffs so I'm guessing it would probably be a bit of a shock to the system. Predominantly the team that just misses out on automatic promotion does not do very well [in the playoffs]. Again, as I said, last October and November we never thought in a million years that we would be in this position – we weren't even sure if we would be in this division.

"It will obviously be a bit of a blow [if we don't get up automatically], but it is something that we will have to get over very quickly. It's something that hopefully we won't have to do anyway with the two games that we have left. If we can pick up two wins we are confident that we'll go up [automatically]."

When Eddie Howe returned to manage the club earlier in the season, it would be fair to say that the situation looked bleak. How much credit does he deserve for the position that the team is now in?
"Things were not great when he came in – I think we were 21st. I think the biggest credit you can give him is that he has united us. Under the old management, it wasn't disjointed, there just didn't seem to be that team camaraderie and spirit. People may laugh when I say that and think 'but you're playing football every day'.

"It wasn't great though. When the gaffer came in, from the people that work in the stadium to the fans, the whole atmosphere changed. He's a bit of living legend [at Bournemouth]. In terms of the amount of credit that he deserves, I think he deserves most of it if I'm honest. He came in and got us playing football in the way that he wanted it to be played. Without him we probably wouldn't be sitting in second place right now."

If you do manage to gain promotion, do you feel that the manager would need to strengthen the side in order to ensure survival at a higher level?
"I would be hopeful that we would strengthen if he felt that we needed to in certain areas, but if the lads that are here are good enough, I think we'll be given a chance. I think everyone that has played a part this year deserves a chance. If it comes to the crunch and the gaffer has to strengthen, I'm sure that is something that he will look to do. If it is for the better of Bournemouth then we have all got to be right behind it."

There are actually some very good players at Bournemouth. The likes of Harry Arter, Brett Pitman and Matt Ritchie have all claimed headlines this season. Surely most of the squad would be comfortable in the Championship?
"You would like to think so. Most of the people that have come to watch us over the last few months have said that we are a good footballing team. We seem to have that little spark where we can create something from nothing, which is what you need in the Championship. We've got a lot of quality in our side, along with a lot of work rate. You need both of those. As well as having creative players, you need a good defence and a good goalkeeper. It's something that I feel confident in when I got out to play. I often think that we are going to keep clean sheets."

How about yourself? Do you feel ready to perform at that level?
"I think it is the next step for me personally. Obviously coming from Torquay last year I was optimistic that I could step up a level and I think that I have proved to myself that I can stand on my own two feet at this level. For me, the next move is to be in the Championship and I'm hopeful that it will be with Bournemouth. It will be up to me then to prove that I am good enough to stay in the team and prove to the manager that it is not an area that he needs to strengthen."

It's actually taken you a while to get to this point in your career. You were released by Everton as a youngster, which must have been disappointing. How much would it mean to be able to call yourself a Championship player next season?
"If you had said to be that I could be a Championship player when I left Everton, I would have probably laughed at you! I've been through quite a lot and I have done it the hard way. I've been to League Two and and the Premier League in Ireland.

"It will be tremendous if it only took me three or four years to get up to the Championship. I don't want to sit on the bench or be in the reserve team of a Championship side though, I would rather be in a League One club playing [every week]. I cannot really give you the words to describe what it would be like. I'd be over the moon and it would be very, very special."

Finally, you arrived at Bournemouth from Torquay United, who are struggling in League Two this season. Are you hopeful that they will be able to preserve their Football League status?
"I keep in touch with everyone down there and it is not a nice place for them to be in. Unfortunately, things have been a bit unsettled there with a caretaker manager coming in. It's difficult because managers want their own style of play and players. They've got a bit a fight on their hands, but I'm hopeful that they can drag themselves out of that position. It will be difficult for the club, the fans and everyone involved to go from the playoffs two seasons in a row, only to be relegated the following one. I wish them the best of luck."

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez during the match against Manchester City on November 28, 2012
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