WHILE striker Sam Surridge admitted he “didn’t have the best times” in his journey through school – his footballing education has certainly been extensive.

The Cherries academy graduate reached the pinnacle of the English game when he was brought on as a second-half substitute for his Premier League debut against Arsenal in February.

Always keen to make it as a professional, Surridge was just 20 years old when his top-flight dream came true.

Boss Eddie Howe does not give out appearances in the Premier League lightly. He described as a “big moment” the youngster’s first league bow for Cherries.

The tale of a lad coming through an academy system to feature for his club’s first team is one many supporters treasure.

And Surridge, a former Cherries ball boy, said his fixation with making it as a footballer as a child made turning out for the Dorset outfit even more sweet.

“I didn’t have the best times at school when I was younger. I had my mind set on being a professional footballer,” he told the Daily Echo.

“I wasn’t the smartest and I didn’t get on with a lot of teachers then – but that’s long in the past. It’s all kind of hardened me up for now.

“You look back and think, four or five years later you could be playing in the Premier League. It’s just every boy’s dream.

“I have worked hard. It’s nice to come through as a local lad. There are not many that come through and very few into the Premier League, so it’s nice.”

As well as attending Parley First, Ferndown Middle and Ferndown Upper, Surridge had been with Cherries’ academy from a young age, before a two-year break meant he re-joined the system at 14.

From there, he has never looked back.

A short loan spell at Weymouth followed up by Surridge banging in the goals at Poole Town as a teenager meant he cut his teeth at non-league level.

Ten goals in 53 appearances while at Yeovil during the 2017-18 campaign saw his Football League career take off – before fully announcing himself by netting 12 goals in 20 appearances for League Two Oldham last season.

That sparked loan interest from League One giants Sunderland in January – manager Howe instead opting to continue Surridge’s education at Cherries.

Looking back at his loan spells, the 20-year-old said: “They are all learning experiences. Poole was a little breakthrough for me. It proved I could score goals in men’s football.

“You came off every game with bruises and stuff but you learned how to use your body a lot more – especially when you are a young lad and not as strong as some of them.

“As you get stronger it becomes easier.

“You learn things as you go and it’s all good for days when you have to be on it. Looking back at those times you put it in the back of your mind but it was only two or three years ago.

“You never know where I can be in two or three years from now.

“It led to Yeovil and Oldham and the next step now is Bournemouth.”

Surridge came off the bench for Cherries’ final top-flight fixture of last season, a 5-3 defeat at Crystal Palace.

The striker is now a member of the first-team squad which headed off to Spain for a 12-day pre-season training camp this week.

And while still in the early stages of his career, the determined frontman is eager to take in every experience.

“I learn every day off the gaffer,” he added.

“If he tells me to do something, I’ll do it – I am very level-headed.

“Anything he asks me to do, I take it in and I listen.

“I want to keep on improving. He will ask me to work on stuff and I will try every day.”