DEFENDER Dan Strugnell has described as “the toughest decision of my career” his choice to sever ties with Cherries after eight years at the club.

Strugnell, who joined Cherries as a 12-year-old, has turned down the club’s offer of a short-term contract in favour of signing for non-league Havant & Waterlooville.

The Bournemouth-born 20-year-old will reunite with former Cherries boss Lee Bradbury after agreeing terms on a two-year deal with the Conference South outfit.

Strugnell, a season ticket holder at Dean Court until he was taken on as an apprentice, enjoyed a fruitful loan spell with the Hawks last season, netting three times in 22 games.

He made his only appearance for Cherries when he came off the bench to replace broken leg victim Stephen Purches during the 1-0 defeat at Rochdale in February 2012.

Strugnell, who was rewarded with his first contract by Bradbury in May 2011 before earning a second year under Paul Groves 12 months ago, will play for the Hawks on a semi-pro basis.

He told the Daily Echo: “I love the club, it is my local club and I have been a supporter since I was a boy. It has been the toughest decision of my career, especially seeing where the club is going. But I was offered three months and felt there was a lot of risk involved. If I didn’t get anything at the end of that, other clubs would have sorted their budgets and squads.

“I had a long, hard think and spoke to the manager (Eddie Howe). He was great about it and didn’t put me under any pressure. I spoke to my family and gauged opinions from people I know in football and pretty much everyone gave me the same feedback. I am happy to stand by my decision and am looking forward to next season.”

Strugnell, who captained the Cherries youth team, added: “They have got five or six good centre-halves and I just couldn’t see myself breaking into the first team. Another year at Bournemouth would probably have been similar to this year. It is going to be a big step and difficult for the younger lads to get into the first-team environment.

“I just want to play regular first-team football. I really enjoyed my time on loan with Havant and love working with Bradders. It is the best thing for my career at this point in time. My aim is to get back into the league and I am going to work as hard as I can to achieve it.”

  • Cherries will visit Christchurch on Tuesday, July 9 and Woking on Saturday, July 20 for pre-season friendlies.