WHEN it comes to talk of Cherries occupying top spot in the Championship, now-and-then comparisons have been all the rage.

Much has been made of where Cherries are today and where they were six years ago when Eddie Howe first took over as manager.

At the time, Harry Arter was in the footballing wilderness and fearing for his future as he contemplated dropping into non-league or, even worse, knocking the game on the head.

In what would prove to be his final season at Charlton, Arter had an unsuccessful trial at Ipswich and loan spells at Staines Town and Welling United.

Following his release from the Valley, Arter slipped into Conference South, while Howe prepared to lead Cherries in League Two having masterminded the Greatest Escape.

For the record, five years ago today – on New Year’s Day 2010 – Arter played his part in a 2-0 victory for Woking against Havant & Waterlooville.

And although the Cards ultimately missed out to Bath City in the Conference South play-off final, 2009-10 was the season Arter earned his big break.

He told the Daily Echo: “After I had been released by Charlton, I was waiting for an offer from AFC Wimbledon who had just been promoted to the Conference. They said they would call but never did so I signed for Woking.

“A guy called Jimmy Dack, who I’m still close to now, was the reason I signed for them. He was the assistant manager and I had played for him when he had the same role at Welling. He helped me fall back in love with the game.

“After what had happened at Charlton, I wasn’t in a good place and felt like I wasn’t wanted. Jimmy made me like football again and the thought of playing for him for a year was something to look forward to.

“At the time, I didn’t think of it as something which might have been make or break for me. I was only 19 and didn’t know much about the level. I was like a kid in the playground looking forward to playing football again. Jimmy made it a happy environment. He saw I had potential and wanted me to realise it.

“Looking back now, it shaped my career and grounded me. I had been put on a pedestal way too early at Charlton and, when I fell off, I didn’t really understand why.”

Arter joined Cherries in June 2010 and was one of the club’s first signings after promotion to League One had been achieved and following the easing of their transfer embargo.

With vice-chairman Jeff Mostyn fronting negotiations on behalf of the club at an FA transfer tribunal, Cherries were ordered to stump up £4,000 for the midfielder. Woking had wanted £30,000.

At the time, Mostyn described it as “a great bit of business”. Little did he or Cherries supporters realise just how great it would turn out to be. A key figure in the club’s League One promotion, Arter has gone on to establish himself as one of the most influential midfielders in the Championship.

Arter said: “I didn’t have an agent when I first signed for Woking. I just wanted to get my head down and enjoy my football. I started the season well and ended up signing with someone.

“I heard Bournemouth were coming to watch me and was nervous before the game. I did quite well but got injured and had to come off. I thought that would ruin my chances, especially as I’d had injury problems at Charlton.

“But Eddie contacted my agent the next day and I was buzzing. I met him and it felt like an interview. We clicked and got on well. He seemed to like my philosophy on football and what I wanted to achieve. It was an easy decision and I am so glad I signed.”