REGRETS, he’s had a few.

Lee Tomlin would be the first to admit his journey to the Premier League has been anything but plain sailing.

Had it not been for a fierce determination to reach the top, the gifted playmaker could easily have fallen by the wayside when he was a teenager.

But having conquered his demons and heeded the occasional wake-up call, Tomlin is planning to seize his chance with Cherries with both hands.

Hailed as the best player in the Championship by Aitor Karanka, his boss at former club Middlesbrough, Tomlin must have thought his opportunity had passed after the Teessiders lost out in the play-off final in May.

It was the latest in a long line of hard-luck stories for Tomlin, who will be hoping to exorcise the ghost of Wembley when Cherries face Norwich, Boro’s opponents that fateful day, at Carrow Road on Saturday.

“We didn’t have the best preparation for the final,” said Tomlin. “We got stuck in traffic on the way to Wembley and didn’t arrive until about 45 minutes before kick-off.

“We had a brief warm-up and, when we were in the huddle, some of the lads said we mustn’t let it affect us. But it did affect us and we were 2-0 down inside 20 minutes. Although we played well in the second half, the game was lost.

“I have so much respect for everybody at Middlesbrough. A lot of people have said things about the way I left the club. But I was told they didn’t want to keep me. They brought in Stewart Downing, a hero up there. It was another setback for me but, fortunately, Bournemouth took me and I am finally in the Premier League.”

Raised in Leicester, Tomlin briefly quit the game after being released by his hometown club at 16 before he was taken on by Rushden & Diamonds having phoned the club asking for a trial.

He became Diamonds’ youngest player when he made his debut in October 2005 but was again rejected following a week-long trial with Liverpool.

“There were stages in my career when I never thought I would do it,” said Tomlin, who was snapped up by Peterborough for a bargain £150,000 in August 2010, helping Posh to promotion from League One in his first season.

“Justin Edinburgh, my manager at Rushden, was a big influence on me, as was Darren Ferguson at Peterborough. They both stuck with me and made me start to believe I could do it.

“Being knocked back by Liverpool was a real kick in the teeth. When you get invited for a trial, you think you must be doing something right. But when nothing comes of it, you start to question yourself.

“I knew I had to work hard but didn’t always knuckle down like I should have. I probably wasted a year or two in the Conference and didn’t look after myself properly.

“When I was at Peterborough, I was a professional and living a normal life, like I was still in non-league. I loved playing but kept living the life of a normal young lad.

“I suppose I got away with it in League One but the inconsistency started to show after we had been promoted to the Championship. I was sharp in some games but sluggish in others.

“Celtic came in for me but the move was turned down by Peterborough. At the time, I just felt everybody was against me but I know now that it was down to me. I had to start living right and doing everything professionally, otherwise I was going to blow it.

“I got my head sorted and started to kick on at Middlesbrough. Now I am here, I am desperate to be successful. I know you need to work hard in every game and every training session. I know the competition is fierce but it should be because we are in the Premier League.”