SIMON Francis is determined to show Sheffield United he is in his prime as he admits his Blades background still holds disappointing memories.
The Cherries star is set to make his 36th start of the season when his former employers visit Dorset in this afternoon’s League One showdown (3pm).
Right-back Francis has extra motivation to perform in the Dean Court clash as he endured a tough time during his spell at Bramall Lane.
The Nottingham-born defender joined the Blades from Bradford City in a £200,000 move in 2004 but went on to make just 15 appearances.
After suffering injury setbacks, Francis found himself loaned to Grimsby and Tranmere before making a successful switch to Southend.
He told the Daily Echo: “It will be a massive game and one that we have really got to try to get a win out of.
“It has been a long time since I was there and I have definitely learned a lot.
“I have got a lot more mature. I feel I have definitely grown – as a player and a person.”
Having turned 28 last week, Francis is hopeful of giving Cherries the best years of his career as they chase a place in the Championship.
He said: “When you are younger, you are probably focusing on different things, outside of football, in your life and when you are past 30, you are kind of looking at the side after football.
“That is why 26-30 is the prime age when you should be playing your best football and, mentally, you should be right.
“I am definitely at that stage of my career now and I want to kick on, especially with Bournemouth.”
Reflecting on his time at Bramall Lane, Francis added: “It was disappointing, mainly on my part.
“I started off fine but got an injury early on in my career there and it set me back. I got another injury after that and was out for a whole season.
“Things had changed, they had brought in other players and it was tough to get back into a team that was doing so well – they were pushing for promotion to the Premier League at the time.
“I went out on loan to a couple of teams, got quite a few games under my belt and it just wasn’t the same. I was disappointed with how it went because it was a massive club, the fans were brilliant and I would have liked to have stayed there longer.”
Cherries, who were knocked off top spot by Swindon in midweek, are one of seven teams separated by just four points in the push for promotion.
Fourth-placed Sheffield United trail second-placed Cherries by a point with one game in hand.