LONG-serving skipper Simon Francis admitted he never expected to hit a remarkable double milestone when he joined Cherries during the League One era.

The 32-year-old defender would move into outright 20th in Cherries' leading league appearance-makers if selected for Sunday's top-flight clash with visitors Arsenal.

Francis's next league outing would be his 250th league appearance and would edge him ahead of Ken Bird, a popular goalkeeper of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Twice a winner of the Daily Echo-Micky Cave player-of-the-year award, Francis was signed on loan from Charlton in November 2011, brought in by boss Lee Bradbury who he had played alongside at Southend.

Having impressed, Francis joined permanently two months later and went on to play a key role in the Dorset club's meteoric rise to the Premier League.

Discussing his move to the south coast, Francis told the Daily Echo: "At the time, it was a place to get games and I got lucky with the manager having played alongside him.

"Making 250 appearances was definitely one of the furthest things from my mind at that point but so was playing in the Premier League. I'm sure everyone affiliated with the club in those days would say the same.

"I wasn't aware of moving into the top 20. I knew I had made a lot of appearances but there have been so many games that you keep churning them out and forget to count.

"It's a great achievement for me and, hopefully, there are many more to come.

"I feel fitter than I have in a long time and playing full-back recently has benefited me in that respect.

"I saw in the programme for the Brighton game that I had made nearly 600 career appearances so that is a huge plus. But although it's something nice to look back on after your career, it's not about numbers at the moment.

"I want to carry on playing for as long as possible and keep churning them out."

Cherries are midway through their third straight campaign in the top flight and are a point clear of the drop zone, Francis having featured in 18 of the 22 fixtures.

He said: "I think this season has been the hardest for us in the Premier League, without a doubt.

"They don't get easier unless you are a top team bringing in top players for massive amounts of money. We are not in that situation so it's tough for us week in, week out.

"It's a hard season but we have the second half of the season to go. Hopefully, we can put some big performances together and climb the league.

"It would be good to make my 250th league appearance against Arsenal, of course. That's a massive game for us. We know we caused them problems at home.

"We didn't have a great result away to Arsenal so we will be looking to put that right."