FOR JACK Stacey, the path to the Premier League has been far from straightforward.

Three loan spells, a broken ankle and a drop into League Two have all come Stacey’s way during his relatively short professional career so far.

But all those hurdles have now been overcome with the 23-year-old completing his £4million move to Cherries on the back of his best season in senior football as he helped Luton clinch promotion to the Championship.

Now a fully-fledged right-back, Stacey was named Hatters player of the year after his 50 appearances in 2018-19, during what proved to be his second and final season at Kenilworth Road.

Having been born in Ascot and raised in Windsor, boyhood Tottenham fan Stacey joined the Royals academy aged eight and remained there for 13 years.

During that time he experienced first-team football away at Barnet, Carlisle and Exeter on loan before he was sold to Luton.

Speaking to the D3D4 podcast, Stacey admits he had not thought of leaving Reading permanently before being told a bid had been accepted.

On his first day as a scholar at the Royals aged 16, Eamonn Dolan, the club’s late academy boss, told the group of youngsters that only two per cent of them would be professional footballers at the age of 21.

Stacey, a winger during his time in Berkshire, was handed his Reading debut on the opening day of the 2014-15 campaign and made six appearances in total for the first team that season.

The last of those came as a starter on the final day 3-0 win at Derby, although Stacey lasted just half an hour after suffering a broken ankle.

That left him unable to prove his worth again during pre-season, so loan spells beckoned.

Having by his own admission struggled during a short spell at Barnet, Stacey moved to Carlisle in March 2016 and recalls players leaving the manager’s office in tears after being informed their contracts would not be renewed for the following season.

Those experiences hit home to Stacey exactly how cut-throat football could be.

A fruitful season at Exeter followed as he was converted into a right-back by boss Paul Tisdale, making 38 appearances for the Grecians as they reached the League Two play-off final.

And following the move to Luton, Stacey helped his new side to an 8-2 win over Yeovil on his debut and never looked back with his rise from the fourth tier to the top flight completed in just two years.