GRATEFUL star Tommy Elphick has dedicated his upcoming 100th Cherries appearance to the people who guided him through his lengthy injury torment.

The Cherries skipper, who has racked up 99 appearances since switching from hometown club Brighton in August 2012, arrived at Dean Court on the back of more than a year out having twice ruptured his Achilles tendon.

A regular in Albion’s line-up during their promotion from League One, Elphick was stretchered off during the second half of their final match of the season at Notts County in May 2011.

Hopes of a swift comeback were stifled by an infection after his first bout of surgery then a repeat of the injury prevented him playing any part in Brighton’s first season at the plush new Amex Stadium.

Elphick travelled to Finland and enlisted the help of Professor Sakari Orava, an Achilles specialist who performed similar surgery on David Beckham in 2010 before embarking on the lengthy road to recovery.

Since joining Cherries, Elphick has gone from strength to strength, particularly under the tutelage of boss Eddie Howe and admits he will spare a thought for those who helped him should he bring up his century in tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash at Middlesbrough (3pm).

Elphick, ever-present in the Championship so far this season, told the Daily Echo: “Looking back at my career, it will be a proud moment for me because I was in a dark place having not kicked a ball in more than a year.

“When that happens to you, all you think about is playing the first game so to go on to play 100 times at this standard and to be part of what we are achieving is a great feeling for me.

“There are so many people I am indebted to. The surgeons that helped get me back, the physiotherapists and doctors and in particular Nathan Ring (Brighton physio) who I have stayed in touch with.

“The medical staff (at Cherries) help me to stay fit and the manager has played a massive part in getting me back to my best. He has nurtured me, allowed my body to do the talking and if I need a rest he doesn’t mind.

“My family were a massive support and I have surrounded myself with good people who have looked after my career.

“The success we’re having at the moment is a testament to them and long may that continue.”

Elphick continued: “Setbacks make you tougher but it was hard, I can’t deny that. The conditions were not the best at Brighton at the time, the treatment room was set away from everyone else so I had a lot of time on my own with everything going round in my mind.

“You try not to doubt yourself too much. That’s the biggest task you have when you’re out injured for so long. When you first come back you’re nervous, it’s like you’re first day at school all over again.

“You never know if you will get back to your best again but you have to trust the people looking after you.”