CHERRIES have completed the signing of Chris Mepham from Brentford – and the man who helped ignite his career believes the defender can go to the next level.

The Daily Echo understands a £12million fee for the 21-year-old was agreed with the Championship outfit.

Mepham had become a regular in the Bees’ defence this season, making 26 appearances.

The Wales international made his debut for the London club in January 2017 – three years after he was picked up while playing for North Greenford United reserves at the age of 16.

The Hammersmith-born talent stood out to North Greenford reserves manager Paul Palmer, who had connections at Brentford.

Palmer told the Daily Echo: “I first started working with Chris at North Greenford under-16s and at the time I was doing a bit of scouting for Brentford.

“He played in a reserve game against Uxbridge and was up against an experienced striker but he marked him out of the game and was head and shoulders above anyone else.

“We knew he had the attributes to go on to a higher level, even at such a young age.

“Neil Shipperley was in charge of the North Greenford first-team and on the brink of putting him in but Chris went to Brentford for a trial, he did well and went from strength to strength.

“He was a talent then and we knew there was a prospect of even more. Tottenham had been interested at the time.”

Mepham faced a difficult period in academy football before his stand out performance for North Greenford.

He started his youth career at Chelsea but was released at the age of 14.

Failed trials with Watford and boyhood club Queens Park Rangers followed. He settled at Brentford after he had also been watched by scout Shaun O’Connor.

“His qualities as a teenager were that he was above his years in his mindset and how he played the game,” said Palmer.

“He took everything in and had a grown-up attitude which we were really impressed with.

“Chris knew where he wanted to go and he was good at what he was doing.

“I played him at right-back quite a lot but he could naturally play on the right side of a three or at centre-back in a four. He was definitely a defender but comfortable on the ball. Chris can go all the way to the top. Out of all the players we had, you could tell Chris had the perfect approach with his mindset and how he concentrated on the game.”

Mepham has remained in contact with the Spartan South Midlands Premier outfit despite his swift rise.

“I have kept in touch,” said Palmer, who now manages North Greenford’s first-team.

“He phones and says ‘thank you for everything’, but his journey is just starting. I only gave him a push, he is a humble lad who wants to learn.

“There have been reports of a few Premier League clubs looking at him but I think Bournemouth suits him.

“He is a young player who is still learning and with experienced players around him Bournemouth will get a lot out of him.”