ASKED about his almost-exemplary appearance record, Tommy Elphick’s response is perhaps predictable. He leans forward and touches wood.

If points were awarded for superstitions, Cherries’ inspirational captain would be on the verge of leading the club to Champions’ League glory.

As it is – and having played all but 27 minutes of what has been a momentous Championship season – Elphick is still striving for a place in the Premier League.

Most Cherries supporters – and particularly those in the North Stand at Dean Court – are familiar with Elphick’s intriguing pre-match ritual.

“It brings me comfort before a game,” explained Elphick. “A few of us have certain routines and I am a creature of habit.

“It all started when I made my debut for Brighton. The goalkeeper had the wrong jersey on and there was a bit of a palaver while he changed it. I found myself switching off so walked towards the goalpost and ended up banging my boots against it. We won and I have done it ever since.

“I always say a few words to myself, like a pep-talk, and it helps get me in the zone. When I run towards the post and hear the supporters singing my name, it gets me pumped and gives me a connection with them.”

Elphick is hoping to end a memorable campaign by leading Cherries into the top flight for their first time in their history. In August, girlfriend Hannah Kearney accepted his marriage proposal before a new contract followed in October.

“I’ve got too many superstitions to mention!” laughed Elphick, who has made his home with his fiancée in Ringwood. “Even Hannah is doing the same as me. It’s madness!

“She has started banging her head against door when we walk out and we always have to have a certain number of potatoes and pieces of broccoli with our dinner. It just doesn’t stop!”

Elphick has good reason to think Lady Luck has played a significant part in his career. At previous club Brighton, he missed the whole of the 2011-12 season after rupturing his Achilles and feared he could be done for.

“It was a bad injury,” said Elphick, who capped his first season with Cherries by winning promotion from League One and lifting the prestigious Micky Cave-Daily Echo supporters’ player of the year trophy.

“We had already won promotion and there was nothing on the game. It kept me out for 16 months and I had a recurrence just as I was about to come back.

“When something like that happens, it goes through your head every day that you might not play again. For me, that is real pressure. When you are injured and almost forgotten and you keep getting setbacks, things prey on your mind because you have a lot of time on your hands.

“Every young lad dreams of playing in the Premier League and after I had taken such a knockback, I wondered whether I would ever play again.

“When you start out as a young pup, you think you’re a world beater and it will come easy. But the older you get and the longer you’re in the game, you realise how hard you have to work for it. Nothing is plain sailing, it is all ups and downs and you have to try to remain constant.

“When you stop and think about what has been achieved at this club in such a short space of time, it is breathtaking. When I was injured and facing an uncertain future, it was beyond my wildest dreams that one day I might have a chance to play in the Premier League.

“You have to surround yourself with strong people to keep you upbeat when you are down. There are others with worse stories than mine. The manager had to retire early due to injury and Yann Kermorgant’s serious illness as a youngster has been well documented.

“My story has certainly spurred me on and made me more determined to be successful. The experience stood me in good stead for what lies ahead and I was fortunate that Bournemouth took a punt on me.

“You can’t get away from the fact that this is the most important week in the club’s history and in the careers of a lot of our players.

“I never thought I would be sitting here talking about the Premier League. For me, it is all a bonus and I am going to enjoy it and match it head on.

“It would be a great story, wouldn’t it?”