MATT Ritchie is the player Cherries supporters hope will prove to be the final piece of the promotion jigsaw.
And having already himself completed the set, Ritchie’s aim is to see Eddie Howe playing Championship manager at Dean Court next season.
At 23, the mercurial winger is one of the youngest players in the country to have plied his trade in all four divisions of the English game.
Cherries this week ended their lengthy pursuit of Ritchie when they finally managed to prise him from League One rivals Swindon.
Two managers have gone and 14 months have elapsed since Cherries tabled the first of a number of unsuccessful bids for one of the hottest properties in the lower leagues.
However, the recent financial uncertainty at the County Ground enabled Cherries to get their man for a bargain fee in the region of £500,000.
Ritchie agreed personal terms on a lucrative three-and-a-half year contract and is in contention to make his debut when Cherries visit MK Dons tomorrow (3pm kick-off).
“I had some great times at Swindon but felt it was time to move on,” said Ritchie. “I won League Two with Swindon last season and my aim is to add another promotion to my CV this year.
“This is a great opportunity for me to hopefully reach the Championship with Bournemouth and have a successful time here. I really fancy us to do well.
“Both Swindon and Bournemouth are in a great position and I am sure will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. I am confident we can go up because we have got good backing, a good manager and a very good set of players. I trained today for the first time and you could see the standard is high and there is a lot of ability in the squad.”
Portsmouth-born Ritchie joined his local club as a six-year-old and progressed through the ranks to make two appearances in the Premier League for Pompey in 2009-10.
As a boy, he would watch the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Paul Merson at Fratton Park, although his favourite player was former Swindon and Cherries winger Sammy Igoe.
Ritchie said: “When I was young, I was a Pompey fan and used to watch players like Sheringham, Merson and Patrick Berger, who were great. But Sammy Igoe was my idol. He was a bit like me – small – so I could relate to him!”
Ritchie cut his teeth in the Football League during a season-long loan at Dagenham & Redbridge in 2008-09, featuring in both games when Cherries did the double over the east Londoners on their way to pulling off the Great Escape.
He helped Notts County beat Cherries to the League Two title during a loan spell at Meadow Lane in 2009-10 before joining Swindon for around £200,000 in January 2011 following a loan stay at the County Ground.
League Two player of the year as Swindon romped to the title last season, Ritchie netted twice against Cherries in a 4-0 victory for the Robins in September. He also lined up in the 1-1 draw at Dean Court last month.
“It was like playing two different teams,” he said. “The personnel were similar but the way they played and set up were different. The manager has come in and turned things round.
“In the game here, the organisation throughout the team was spot on. Bournemouth were hard to break down, they had a good work ethic and you could see the mentality was good.
“When you move, people expect things of you and the manager has signed me expecting me to do well. I need to provide and score goals and, hopefully, I can do that and help Bournemouth.
“I am sure the manager can get the best out of me and am really looking forward to working with him.”
MK Dons: (from) Martin, Lewington, Otsemobor, Doumbe, Williams, Potter, Harley, Chicksen, Bowditch, Lowe, McLeod, MacKenzie, Ismail, Alli, Lines, Flanagan, Powell, Rasulo.
Cherries: (from) Jalal, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Seaborne, McQuoid, Fogden, Arter, O’Kane, Pugh, Pitman, Hughes, Grabban, Tubbs, Partington, Fletcher, Ritchie, Daniels, Allsop.