TWENTY-TWO years ago in 1997, Cherries probably did not think they would be residents in the top 10 of the Premier League.

The Spice Girls, No Doubt and Hanson were tearing up the charts with respective number one singles ‘Spice Up Your Life’, ‘Don’t Speak’ and ‘MMMBop’.

Labour won the general election after a landslide victory and popular quiz show Countdown celebrated its 2,000th edition.

The Battersby family made their debut on Coronation Street, while Manchester United stormed to the Premier League title by seven points ahead of Newcastle.

In January 1997, 2,000 people filed into the Winter Gardens to throw debt-ridden Cherries a lifeline, enthusiastically launching money into buckets to help keep afloat the club.

Eddie Howe had just broken into the first-team squad back then. Even the wildest of optimists could never have thought Cherries would today be snapping up some of Britain’s finest footballing talents.

Manager Howe has invested wisely in the likes of Lewis Cook, David Brooks and January additions Chris Mepham and Dominic Solanke – all born in the year of 1997.

A combined estimated spend of around £46.5million plus add-ons for this ambitious, talented, formidable foursome could benefit the Dorset club at the top level for years to come.

It is worth mentioning at this point that Cherries’ recent stalwarts, who have risen through the divisions in Dorset, should never be counted out. They have shown time and time again they can go toe-to-toe with the elite.

But Howe has made no secret of Cherries’ transfer policy in recent times. He wants to invest in youth and develop players.

In an interview with Wales international Mepham last month, he told the Daily Echo: “When I met the manager he said ‘if I am not developing you I take it personally’.”

Cook and Brooks have already become Premier League stars in a short space of time. If Mepham and Solanke needed any more reassurance – they only need to look at the likes of Ryan Fraser and Nathan Ake, both are still under 25 and have featured in every top-flight game this season.

Cherries have not only invested in the younger generation, they are looking at producing players from the star factory of their own.

Jack Simpson has broken into the England under-21 setup and will be looking to earn a spot at the European Championship in Italy and San Marino this summer.

Sam Surridge has been recalled after banging in the goals and making a name for himself on loan at League Two Oldham.

Kyle Taylor recently signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with the club having been with Cherries since he was eight.

The club’s under-18 squad have reached the last eight of the prestigious FA Youth Cup.

The nature of the Premier League means not every young player will be a success story, but Cherries certainly have the foundations in place to leave a legacy with their current cohort.

It’s fair to say, there’s a stark contrast from the club which needed saving 22 years ago.