WING wizard Matt Ritchie insists he is closer to realising his Premier League aspirations with Cherries than he ever was at former club Portsmouth.

Cherries' creative catalyst was one of last season's shining lights following his return from injury in November, with speculation rife in January that Crystal Palace were tracking the 24-year-old.

Having spent his formative years with Pompey, Gosport-born Ritchie signed his first professional deal towards the end of the club's heyday under Harry Redknapp but could not regularly force his way into the first-team picture.

Even during Portsmouth's fall from grace, Ritchie spent much of his time on loan before making a permanent switch to Swindon Town, with Cherries subsequently paying £500,000 for his services in January 2013.

And having become a crucial component in the upwardly-mobile Dean Court squad, the ambitious wideman believes the top flight is finally calling after years of toil in the lower leagues.

Ahead of Cherries' pre-season friendly at Fratton Park tonight (7.45pm), Ritchie told the Daily Echo: “It was always going to be tough to break through at Portsmouth. When I was there they had money at the club and they still had international players when I left.

“I have never been one to sit on the bench and watch football. Whether it was a youth game, a reserve game, I just wanted to play and the loan moves gave me a proper grounding.

“When Portsmouth went down to the Championship I had a sniff of first-team action but wasn't the manager's cup of tea at the time.

"I played the first few games and dropped to the bench again and that was when it hit me - I thought, 'am I ever going to get in this team?'

“Luckily enough, I had done well at Swindon. I learned a lot at Portsmouth but in hindsight it was probably the right move to get away, play some games and learn my trade.

"I am only 24 but feel like I have had a successful career so far and, hopefully, there is much more to come.

“Here, it has been more of a project and the gaffer has done great things with the backing of the board and the owner.

"After a good first season in the Championship, expectations are high among the fans and that feeling is just as big in the changing room. I think we can have a really good go this season.

“Hopefully, I can keep working my way up with Bournemouth, I certainly believe I can. It's a great club with real ambition and this can be the generation that makes it (promotion) happen.”

“Everything is in place now, so you never know.”