SIMON Francis revealed the sweet opening-day success over former club Charlton Athletic had set the tone for Cherries’ remarkable season after winning the Daily Echo/Micky Cave Trophy.
The reliable right-back, who remains on course to play every minute of every first-team match for Cherries this season, received 37 per cent of the vote ahead of 20-goal top scorer Lewis Grabban and star centre-half Steve Cook.
Francis has started and finished Cherries’ past 80 competitive matches and completed no fewer than 127 of the club’s fixtures since joining – initially on loan – from the Addicks in November 2011.
On top of his dependable defensive performances, Francis has also weighed in with eight assists in the Championship so far, more than any other Cherries player, as the club target their highest finish in the second tier.
Reflecting on where it all went right, Francis told the Daily Echo: “I had a good pre-season and the first match probably couldn’t have been much bigger for me, being captain against my former team Charlton.
“We were excellent and it was a really good starting block for both me and the team. It gave us the confidence to push on.
“As soon as the fixtures came out it there was no hiding place, it was meant to be for me. Tommy (Elphick, captain) was unfortunate to miss out that day but I was absolutely delighted to wear the armband against a club that had said I wasn’t good enough.
“I was more than pleased to prove them wrong if you like, it was nice to get the result and as a group we never looked back.
"It was great to finish higher than them in the league and both individually and collectively, we have had a great season no matter what happens now.
“Playing a full season has done me the world of good, physically and mentally. I have had a couple of good seasons in the Championship in the past but another couple that didn’t go to plan but that happens to players.
“I have had plenty of ups and downs but certainly the past two years have been the highlight of my career and I feel like I have been performing at my best.”
On scooping the gong, last season’s players’ player of the season added: “It is a lovely accolade to have from the supporters and it lets you know you’re doing something right.
“It’s a pleasure for me to be involved and to be recognised by the people who pay money to watch week-in week-out makes it extra special.
“But this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the lads. Any one of four or five could have won the award as there have been some really outstanding performances throughout the team.”
MICKY CAVE TROPHY FINAL RESULT
Simon Francis 37%
Lewis Grabban 27%
Steve Cook 11%
Lee Camp 8%
Tommy Elphick 4%
Eunan O’Kane 4%