Perhaps with the exception of Bournemouth's 2009 game against Grimsby Town, where a late goal from striker Steve Fletcher saved the club from potentially folding following a 17 point deduction after they entered administration; the Cherries final game of the 2019/20 season was their biggest to date and provided one final opportunity to escape the drop zone after five blissful years in the top flight.
However, despite a resounding 3-1 victory away to Everton, earned through a "passionate performance not seen enough this season" according to manager Eddie Howe, the Cherries were relegated by one point alongside Watford and Norwich, as Aston Villa drew 1-1 with West Ham to push them the right side of the line.
The Cherries have in many ways exceeded expectation since their 2015 promotion, where they were favourites to finish 20th place at the commencement of their initial Premier League campaign. However, perhaps blinded by the entertaining passing football and investment in youth, had the club and the surrounding Bournemouth area become too comfortable and reliant on the economic support of top tier football?
The Premier League is the world's richest football league, "86 percent larger than its nearest competitor the Spanish la Liga" according to the BBC, and recorded a record 4.5 billion pounds revenue in 2018. In turn, this money trickles into the clubs through investments into areas such as TV rights, which in the same year saw an average pay check of £82 million to every EPL outfit - and that's without getting into sponsorship deals and likewise.
Alongside Premier League status and the financial security that comes with it, naturally the local area is also improved, which in Bournemouth's case has seen investment into infrastructure improvements aimed at "boosting business", improvements to the local tourism and hospitality sector highlighted through the construction of the BH2 leisure complex which boasts a cinema and internationally recognised restaurants, and investment into initiatives aimed at bettering environmental sustainability, namely a new food waste disposal regime, improvements to street light power usage and fresh recycling initiatives, all of which have combined to see Bournemouth named the "greenest town in the UK" according to the Vitality Index. Consequently, Bournemouth's population has boomed from 194,500 in mid-2015 to a massive 505,687 in 2020, which is an increase of 311,187 people and highlights the impact of the local improvements supported by Premier League status.
With the Cherries now a Championship side once more, all eyes are on gaining promotion back to the Premier league as quickly as possible, with the hurt and pain of relegation evident during Howe's post match interviews, where he was clearly emotional:
"In terms of feelings and emotions this has been the hardest moment of my career. I feel very emotional, very disappointed, sad and dejected - loads of different things but they are difficult emotions to feel.
"I know the players are hurting. I saw the dressing room and they are all disappointed with what has happened, not necessarily today but during the season. It has not been good enough. I feel very sorry for our supporters tonight, especially as they have not been able to be with us."
Howe also touched on next seasons objectives, which are centred around a swift return to the Premier League, so AFC Bournemouth as a club and the local area can continue to thrive and develop:
"I am determined for Bournemouth to get there, back in the Premier League. In terms of the future and what it looks like, that is for another day.
"I think the next step for for me is to speak to the owner and the directors and see where we go from here. We need to have a strong vision of the future."
The Championship season will commence on the weekend of September 12th 2020, giving Bournemouth only 6 weeks to complete strenuous transfer business, with many of their top players, such as Nathan Ake, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser tipped to be leaving. Furthermore, manager Eddie Howe has also been linked with exit rumours and although he has declined to comment, if such speculation is true, it could prove damaging beyond repair.