Like many British and Irish players in the Football League, Harry Arter used to think he was as good as some of the foreign stars being signed by top Premier League clubs. Then Bournemouth were promoted…
Few people would disagree that the influx from overseas over the past 20 years has improved the overall standard of the English domestic game, but there are still plenty who believe many of the imports are no better than the homegrown players they’ve replaced.
It is also often suggested that players and managers from the British Isles would do just as good a job as their foreign counterparts if given the opportunity at a top club.
It was something Arter used to wonder about when he was playing in League One and the Championship for Bournemouth, but having since worked his way to the top flight it’s an opinion he’s now quick to dismiss.
“I used to see the top clubs paying big money to bring in foreign midfielders and there was a thought in my mind that I could do as good a job as them if I got a chance at a big club, but I’ve changed my mind on that now,” he says.
“When you play against these guys, they are on a different level. There are some talented sportsmen in the world, and some are born bigger and better than you might have been. Some of the guys you come up against in the Premier League are massive physically and so gifted as well.
“The route I have taken to get to this point in my career has allowed me to realise that my aim should be to make the best of the talent I’ve got and not to try and compare myself to Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic or whoever it might be.
“If you come up against a player, you give your all and he comes out better, then you have to accept that and try to improve yourself to get close to that level.
“When you come up against a £90million player and maybe end the game with people saying you have matched him or even done a bit better, then that gives you a lot of satisfaction. That is the challenge I love playing in the Premier League.”
While Arter is honest enough to admit he is not up to the standard of players like Pogba and Matic, the 27-year-old has dealt well with the step up in class and started 33 of Bournemouth’s 38 Premier League games last season.
It led to interest from rival clubs over the summer, but Arter has been impressed with the Cherries’ ambition in wanting to continuously improve and had no hesitation in signing a new four-year contract to remain on the south coast.
“I had a big decision to make,” he says. “A lot has gone on in my personal life. The lows and highs have been massive and you sometimes feel it is time for a new challenge, but this feels like a new club now. We are not standing still, the club is on the up, the manager is great for me.
“There was a little bit of interest from other clubs, but my agent was speaking to Bournemouth straight after the final game of last season and we came to an agreement quite quickly.
“I hope that in my four years here, Bournemouth can be a big club at the end of it. We are looking at a new stadium, a new training ground is on the way, and at the age of 27, playing every week is what I wanted to do. If I was at a top club and not playing, I’d get no satisfaction out of that.
“We are moving forward, and players like Jermain Defoe coming here will help that. Even at his age, he is obsessed with improving and scoring goals, and that is inspirational to those around him after all he has achieved in the game.
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“I’m really proud to be part of what we have built here. You see this summer we have signed players like Jermain and Nathan Ake, but we have kept the core of the squad that has helped us progress through the leagues, and that has stood us in good stead over the last two years in the Premier League.
“The team that started last season had six or seven of us that have progressed from playing in League One and it’s a great achievement for all of us to get to the Premier League and stay here for two years. All of us have embraced working hard and the manager deserves a lot of credit as well because he works so hard on all of us individually.
“The manager has brought players in over the last few years who were maybe not signed to replace us but may have been viewed as big competition for places in our team, and everyone has risen to the challenge.”
Eddie Howe is among the managers Anglophiles might suggest is deserving of the chance of a more high-profile job, and while Arter does not currently hold any aspirations of making such a step up himself, he fully expects the Cherries boss to eventually move on to bigger things.
“He has got a great reputation in the game and deservedly so,” Arter says. “He has also come on the journey through the lower leagues and still challenges himself every day to improve. If we have had a bad result, he will analyse why and comes up with great solutions to improve us.
“At times in this league, there may be nothing we can do. If you are up against Man City and they are at their best, sometimes no game plan in the world can beat them.
“But he is someone who will go on to achieve great things elsewhere at some point, I have no doubt about that.
“He won‘t join a club that is a sideways move. He will aim for higher than that, and when the right chance comes along, I’m sure he will take it.
“The day will come when he moves on to a bigger club, but he has built an infrastructure here that is strong and will serve his successor well.”
By Kevin Palmer