Why Harry Arter is the heartbeat of Bournemouth

As clubs put more and more emphasis on growing their academies, it is becoming increasingly rare to find examples of footballers who have graduated from non-league to the Premier League. Two that immediately spring to mind are Jamie Vardy and Chris Smalling, but it is a road that has also been trodden by AFC Bournemouth’s Harry Arter. Just six years ago, Arter was plying his trade for Woking and his dream of playing professional football looked to be vanishing. Who could have imagined the journey that would transport him to the top flight of English football?

Such was his disillusionment upon being released by his boyhood club Charlton Athletic that Arter contemplated giving up football completely. But in 2010, while playing for Woking, he was spotted by Eddie Howe and signed for the Cherries – then in League One – for the measly sum of £4,000. It was a move that would change his life forever and, arguably, represented the best piece of business Bournemouth have ever done.

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Initially, Arter struggled to establish himself in the first team and was even loaned out to Carlisle United. But the return of Howe for his second spell in charge marked the start of Arter’s rise to prominence. He became a mainstay of the side and was fundamental to the club’s run of two promotions in three seasons that ultimately led them to the Premier League.

When at his irrepressible best, Arter is the heartbeat of the team, and no more was that evident than in the impressive victory over Everton, where the Republic of Ireland international produced one of the finest individual displays to have graced the Vitality Stadium. His trademarks were all there; snapping into challenges with terrier-like bite, pressing the opposition high up the pitch, shooting from long range and supplying key passes, one of which was the assist for Junior Stanislas’ spectacular long-range winner.

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Last season did not go to plan for Arter. Having achieved promotion to the Premier League, he should have been on an all-time high. But during the summer he suffered a troublesome foot injury that sidelined him for the first two months of the campaign. Then in December, tragedy struck as he and his partner lost their daughter at birth.

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Only days later, Arter lined up for the Cherries in an emotionally-charged encounter against Manchester United. Bournemouth won the game 2-1 as Arter produced a heroic performance, despite being grief-stricken. Most inside the ground were unaware of his circumstances, while the heart-rending image of a tearful Arter being consoled by Howe epitomised the close bond between manager and player.

Considering everything he had to cope with during Bournemouth’s maiden Premier League campaign, this season marks a fresh start. Being needlessly sent off against West Ham at the Olympic Stadium probably wasn’t in the script, but since then, Arter has recaptured his best form. The 26-year-old has spoken of his delight at the loan signing of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, who was effusive in his praise for Arter following the number eight’s formidable display against Everton.

At a time when footballers can fetch as much as £90 million in the transfer market, it seems incongruous that someone who cost just £4,000 can have such a huge impact. Nevertheless, six years and some 200 appearances on from his Bournemouth debut, Arter has proved he belongs at the highest level. It would be difficult to estimate his current worth to the club, because in many ways he is priceless. Perhaps this is a lesson that, despite the vast riches of the Premier League, hidden gems do exist further down the pyramid if elite clubs are willing to look hard enough. There is no doubt that Arter is one such diamond who continues to sparkle.


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