DEFENDER Jack Simpson paid tribute to Cherries’ fluid playing philosophy throughout his “mad journey” to the Premier League.

The 21-year-old centre-half, who originally progressed though the youth system as a midfielder, hailed the club’s structure in mirroring boss Eddie Howe’s approach.

He played 90 minutes during the Dorset club’s 3-2 Carabao Cup third round victory over Blackburn and could be involved when Howe’s men on Monday host Crystal Palace (8pm).

Weymouth-raised Simpson told the Daily Echo: “I owe a lot to how the club have mirrored how the gaffer has always played. It has stood me in good stead.

“It’s a testament to the staff and the club how, even when we were a League Two team, we always played and passed the ball around.

“I just got my head down, worked hard and luckily – and deservedly enough – got this opportunity. I won’t blow my own trumpet but I feel I have done well.

“My relationship is very good with the gaffer. He has helped me so much, especially over the past two or three years in learning the position and how he wants me to play.

“He has been excellent with me, not just as a manager but as a person. Any issues I have had I have chatted to him, he has been brilliant.”

Simpson became the first Cherries academy product to start a game in the top-flight, featuring for 72 minutes in the 4-0 defeat at Manchester City in December.

“It’s been a mad journey,” he added.

“I was training right next to the stadium when I was 12 years old, never really thinking you would get to play there.

“The ways we have grown as a club and how I have been here the whole time and seen it rise, it’s mad to be involved with and quite special.

“Every weekend I used to come and watch with my dad when I was younger. Once I got a bit older I used to watch myself and get the train back home. The youth team used to be here every game as well.”

Simpson in January signed a contract extension to keep him at Vitality Stadium at least until June 2020.

Despite rising to the elite level in English football, the former Wey Valley School pupil believes he has not changed around his friendship group.

“None of them really care to be fair, which is nice! They all still see me as the same person as two or three years ago,” he added.

“They don’t treat me any differently and that’s why they are my group of friends.

“If anything, I am probably quieter than I was two or three years ago, especially with them. It gives you a different perspective of things.

“It makes you appreciate it more in terms of what you have and I wouldn’t change what I do for the world – if anything it has probably changed me for the better."