THE south coast feel-good factor will be inescapable tonight (7.45pm) when Eastleigh open their doors to AFC Bournemouth for their first home pre-season friendly since winning promotion to the Conference Premier.
With the Spitfires’ first live TV game beckoning against Aldershot Town on Thursday, August 14, the summer buzz has never been greater at the new-look Silverlake Stadium.
And it’s the same story for the Cherries who finished an excellent tenth in the Championships last term and are just back from a pre-season trip to Austria where they drew 2-2 against FC Copenhagen at the Vulkanlandarena.
Given that it was little more than a decade ago that Eastleigh were plying their trade in the Wessex League, it seems inconceivable that they will soon be strutting their stuff live on BT Sport.
Not surprisingly manager Richard Hill is immensely proud to be overseeing one of the south coast’s emerging success stories.
“When you go up north, you have a lot of clubs all in very close proximity but when you come down south you don’t tend to have many teams on your doorstep,” he said.
“But we’ve now got Southampton and Bournemouth doing decent and then you throw in Portsmouth and Eastleigh as the young pretenders, which can only be good for the south coast.”
With Bournemouth sending their development squad to Poole Town last night for Taffy Richardson’s testimonial, Eddie Howe will be bringing his senior squad to Stoneham Lane with new signings Dan Gosling and Callum Wilson likely to feature.
Cherries have also signed Junior Stanislas and Lee Camp, but they were both rested for the Austria trip as a precautionary measure. For Eastleigh fans, it will be their first chance to see pedigree new arrivals James Constable, Jack Midson, Paul Reid and Craig Stanley on home soil.
The Spitfires have already played two away friendlies, following a 3-0 victory at Didcot – in which Constable scored twice – with a 4-1 triumph at Marlow where Jai Reason and the now permanently signed Ben Wright bagged a brace apiece.
Eastleigh gave a run-out to Scottish left-sided player Declan McAvoy in both games, but he is unlikely to feature tonight.
The Spitfires host another big friendly workout against Swindon Town on Thursday (July 17), kicking off at the earlier time of 7pm.
Entry per game is £8 adults, £5 concessions and free for under-12s. Alternatively fans can take advantage of a £10 offer covering all five home friendlies, continuing with Crawley Town (July 26, 3pm), Northampton Town (August 1, 7.30pm) and Saints Development Squad (August 4, 7pm).