Harry Arter: the ultimate underdog
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on December 7, 2016
Nothing captivates the media quite like a cinderella story, a zero to hero where against all odds an ultimate underdog fights his way to the top. Last season Leicester City shocked the footballing world with their star man, Jamie Vardy, stood on top of it. However, for Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter his world was collapsing.
On the 12th of December 2015, Arter took to the pitch alongside his Bournemouth team-mates for a Barclays Premier League match against Manchester United. Just two days prior Arters fiancée had given birth to their stillborn daughter, Renee. The emotions running through Arter’s head on that day would have been incomparable. The mental strength needed, not just to get through the game but the next year, is only possessed by a select few. In a career defined by adversity Arter once more found himself having to pick himself up. Like many of the modern day success stories, Arter’s has humble beginnings in non-league.
Arter was born on the 28th December 1989 in Sidcup, London. Sidcup is located 11.3km south east of Charring Cross station and in the borough of Brexley. Boarded by Bromley, to the south, and Greenwich, to the west, Brexley is on the fringe of outer London. Fellow Premier League star, and Swansea winger, Wayne Routledge also hails from Sidcup, however unlike Arter he gets credit for it on the Sidcup Wikipedia page. As far as football goes in Sidcup it houses one club, Sporting Club Thamesmead F.C. Playing in the Southern Counties East League they are four tiers below the football league. SCTFC’s biggest achievement in their 116-year history is their FA Cup run to the preliminary rounds.
It was a short trip to Woolwich where Arter’s career began, The Valley became his home as he progressed through the ranks of Charlton Athletic. Arter was promoted to the first team in the summer of 2007, one month later he was making his debut at age 18. One year earlier Arter’s professional career had looked in doubt as he suffered an achilles injury in training. The Irish international was sidelined for six months, the injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Arter changed his lifestyle to achieve peak fitness levels faster and come back better than ever. Arter was given his debut by then manager Alan Pardew on the 25th of September 2007 where he was used as an 86th-minute sub to replace striker Svetoslav Todorov. Charlton lost the game 3-1. However, for Arter, it will be remembered as a day of opportunity where he hoped to lay the seeds of a successful career.
Times were changing at Charlton, Pardew was sacked and replaced with Phil Parkinson. Parkinson didn’t see what Pardew saw in Arter and sent the youngster out on loan to Staines Town. Arter recalls the experience of like playing ‘Sunday league’, however its Sunday league where players are forged and it made Arter ‘feel like a footballer again’.
Upon his return to The Valley Arter struggled to make the reserve team and found himself on the loan list again. This time his destination was Welling United. Arter made three appearances for The Wings before the 2008/09 season came to a close and once more Arter was back at Charlton. This time, however, it wasn’t a happy reunion. Arter remembers being called aside by Parkinson and being told he was getting released. Charlton were feeling the effect of the ongoing British recession and couldn’t afford to keep the youngster on board. In an interview years later Arter recalls crying in his car, uncertain about where the future would take him.
Thanks to his good performances at Welling United interest in Arter was high in the lower tiers of English football. It was the newly reformed AFC Wimbledon and former Welling assistant Jim Dack’s Woking that made approaches for the future Irish international. Arter was close to leaving the game altogether when Wimbledon offer him a contract only to withdraw it last minute to free up the funds to sign Ricky Wellard, who is now at Wealdstone in the conference south. Arter was then left with the option of leaving or joining up with former Welling assistant and close friend Jim Dack.
Arter’s move to Woking was confirmed on the 2nd of July 2009, he signed a one-year contract with the conference south side. Dack promised Arter if he performed well he would be leaving at the of the season. Dack shared the vision that Pardew saw in Arter, believing to good for non-league football. Arter appeared 36 times for The Cardinals in the 2009/10 season, chipping in with five goals. Woking finished the season in fifth place, enough to clinch a playoff berth. A trip to Wembley ensued, Arter wasn’t included in the squad, had he been he may have prevented the eventual 1-0 loss that resided Woking to another season in football wilderness.
It became clear towards the end of Arter’s inaugural season at Woking that he would be leaving come the curtain call of his contract. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe had been spotted at some of Woking’s game towards the end of the campaign.
Bournemouth themselves had only just pulled through a purple patch of their own with the whole club teetering on the edge of liquidation. In the 2008/09 season, Bournemouth had secured football league status in the final home game of the campaign when Steve Fletcher found the back of the net eleven minutes from time to secure a 2-1 victory against Grimsby. The following campaign, under new manager Eddie Howe, Bournemouth turned from relegation candidates to title challengers. The Cherries finished the season in second place, securing their promotion to League One with two games to spare.
Arter’s move was confirmed on the 7th June of 2010 for an undisclosed fee. Coincidently his Bournemouth debut was at The Valley against his former team Charlton Athletic. Arter was kickstarting his career where it had come to a crashing halt one year prior. Bournemouth lost the game 1-0 with Arter was subbed at half time, hardly the dream return.
Arter started the season well, however, by March the Irishman found himself heading north to Carlisle on loan. Arter would score on his debut to draw Carlisle level against Brighton. Brighton, who were top at the time, found themselves facing dropping two points which would have allowed Arter’s parent club Bournemouth to leapfrog them. Unfortunately for Carlisle fate would be against them and Liam Bridcutt would find the back of the net in the 90th minute to secure the win.
When Arter returned to Dean Court, Howe was on his way to Burnley and was replaced by former player Lee Bradbury. Bradbury made Arter part of his first team plans with him making 39 appearances across the season. Arter predominately featured off the bench in an indifferent season for Bournemouth as they were unable to recreate their promotion push from the season prior and finished in 11th position. As a result Bradbury was sacked and in came Paul Groves.
In the 2012/13 season Groves was quick to release the deadwood in the squad and in their place bring in players who he hoped to elevate the squad. Among the names brought in were; Tommy Elphick, future club captain; David James, former England international and Lewis Grabban, the man who Groves believed would be his 20 goals per season striker.
Bournemouth started the season poorly, a string of three 1-1 draws was followed up by a 5-3 thumping at the hands of Sheffield United. Matchday five brought The Cherries first victory of the season when they travelled away to Yeovil. Richard Hughes scored the only goal of the encounter with a 25-yard free kick in the second half to gift Bournemouth the win. The match also heralded the arrival of Harry Redknapp as football advisor, three months after being sacked by Tottenham. Redknapp stayed for a month in-between jobs before he left to manage QPR in their bid to return to the top flight.
More poor results were to follow and inevitably Groves was sacked and replaced by the returning Eddie Howe. Howe played Arter in his first game in charge against Tranmere, Arter went on to score helping his team to a 3-1 victory. The two seemed to share the same footballing philosophies, Arter became the fulcrum to Howe’s ideologies on the pitch and in return Howe lifted Arter’s game. Arter spearheaded Bournemouth’s promotion push, finishing third in their goalscoring rankings with six. Bournemouth finished second, earning themselves an automatic promotion spot to the Championship.
Bournemouth, and Arter, had an exceptional inaugural Championship season. Despite a reality check on matchday two where Bournemouth travelled away to Vicarage Road to face Watford, followed by another thrashing a fortnight later, Bournemouth won half of their first eight games. However by the end of February Bournemouth were interlocked in a relegation battle, nine points off the drop zone Howe needed to turn around the season around. On March 1st Bournemouth welcomed Doncaster Rovers. Yann Kermorgant found the net three times, earning himself a hat trick, and Arter scored a brace in a crushing 5-0 victory. From then on Bournemouth didn’t look back, eight wins in their next ten games propelled The Cherries up the table with a playoff spot almost within their reach. Unfortunately, a stagnation of results resided them to mid table.
The 14/15 season came around and once more Arter was the heartbeat of the team. He featured in thirty-eight of Bournemouth’s league games. Arter and fellow central midfielder Andrew Surman formed a partnership that with the help of striker Callum Wilson would carry them to the title. Bournemouth stumbled at first only recording two wins in their first eight matches but once they had left the purple patch behind them only five losses were to follow. The Cherries pipped Watford to the title by one point eclipsing ninety points in the process. Arter scored nine times throughout the season, his most to date and was voted fans player of the season.
In four years Bournemouth had gone from League Two to the eve of the Barclays Premier League. Despite the influx of the TV money Arter kept his starting place. During the international break in the offseason, Arter picked up an injury preventing him from playing until November. On the 1st of November Arter was a second half sub in a 2-0 loss to Southampton, his debut in England’s top tier. Just six years prior Arter had been playing non-league football for Woking and seven since he had played seven tiers below for Staines Town.
In December of 2015 Arter feel from cloud nine. His daughter Renee was stillborn, Arter said in an interview a couple of months after ‘football was the only thing keeping me going’. Two days after the tragedy Arter was representing Bournemouth against Manchester United. ‘It was my way of dealing with the grief’ he said in a post-match interview, however, looking back in retrospective he admits it was probably the wrong decision. Arter was taken back by the tributes that poured in for him with fans, current players and ex-professionals offering their condolences.
Arter’s good performances at the start of 2016 looked set to earn him a place in Irelands Euro 2016 squad. A mere couple of hours before Martin O’Neil had to finalise his twenty-three man squad for France Arter suffered a muscle injury at Ireland training camp in Cork. Another setback in what Arter describes as the worst twelve months of his life.
His 15/16 efforts would go unrecognised and he was voted fans player of the season for a second year running.
Arter made his return from injury on the opening day of the season against Manchester united in a 3-1 defeat, he’s made thirteen appearances thus far racking up two assists in the process. Talks of an England call up circulated, because Arter had only made appearances for Ireland in friendly matches he was still eligible for The Three Lions. Ultimately he made his official Irish debut in a World Cup qualifying match against the Netherlands. Domestically things are looking up for as well, he has struck up a good relationship with Arsenal loanee Jack Wilshire, a midfield pairing that will be interesting to watch blossom over the coming months. In a heartwarming end to Arter’s story so far his partner, Rachel, announced that she is pregnant once more.