STALWART Marc Pugh emotionally looked back on his glittering Cherries career and insisted: “It’s been the best nine years of my life.”

The 32-year-old scored 56 times in 312 appearances since being snapped up in the summer of 2010 - the Dorset club paying a £100,000 transfer tribunal fee to Hereford.

Pugh played a key role in promotion from League One with Cherries in 2012-13 before winning the Championship in 2014-15.

He has since gone on to make 67 top-flight appearances for Eddie Howe’s men.

But with the Lancastrian’s contract set to run out at the end of June, the club announced Pugh would depart this summer, having spent the second half of the campaign on loan at Championship Hull City.

Having returned to Cherries after suffering a broken toe while with the Tigers, Pugh was given a guard of honour by the club’s players and staff ahead of Saturday’s 1-0 home victory over Tottenham.

The Bacup-born star told the Daily Echo: “I have had an amazing time at the football club, made some life-long friends and it’s been the best nine years of my life.

“I basically feel like I have lived down here my whole life! It’s just been an honour and a pleasure to play for the football club.

“I spoke to the gaffer on Friday morning and we had an emotional chat. Basically, he broke the news that I was going to get something presented to me at the game.

“The gaffer was torn. He wanted me around forever and I wanted to be around forever.

“But I want to be playing football at the end of the day and you don’t want to waste another year not playing football and going out on loan somewhere else.

“I did really well on loan at Hull, put myself in a nice position for the summer and I’m really excited about a new challenge – but it’s going to be a sad day when it finally sinks in that I’m leaving Bournemouth.

“There have been some amazing memories, promotions, playing some top teams in the Premier League with some great victories.

“When I sit back and look at what we have achieved as a football club, I think everyone in and around the place has got so much to be grateful for.”

Pugh capped his final appearance under boss Howe with a goal in an FA Cup third-round tie against Brighton in January.

He added: “The gaffer and his staff work tirelessly behind the scenes and they deserve all the plaudits they get.

“I haven’t got a bad word to say about the gaffer. He has made this football club what it is today.

“Signing for this football club has made me the person I am today. I have learned an awful lot, it’s been a remarkable journey.”