FOR MANY Cherries fans and Premier League observers, latest signing Jack Stacey arrives as somewhat of an unknown quantity.

The 23-year-old right-back joined from Luton Town this week for a fee of around £4million to bolster Eddie Howe’s backline.

But one man who knows Stacey better than most is his former youth team coach Martin Kuhl.

Stacey began his footballing journey in Reading’s academy in 2004, aged just eight.

By that point, former Portsmouth and Birmingham City pro Kuhl had already began coaching within the Reading youth set-up having joined four years earlier.

And he kept a particularly close eye on Stacey’s age group for much of his time in Berkshire, not least because his son Aaron was part of the same team.

Aaron Kuhl actually went on to play more games for Reading’s first-team than Stacey, eight appearances to six, having both enjoyed success with the club’s under-21s, which from 2013 was managed by Martin Kuhl.

Kuhl is now boss at Basingstoke Town, having left the Royals in 2017, the same summer that Stacey departed for Luton.

Recalling his earliest memories from the Reading youth set-up of the new Cherries recruit, Martin Kuhl told the Daily Echo: “Jack was a skinny little number 10 with loads of ability.

“He was very, very highly-rated. Then he had a growth spurt where the club were a little bit concerned. He got really tall with big feet.

“I just said to them, put him right-back. I just thought it would give him a little bit more time.

“Then he kicked on from there, started to get fit and the one thing he does do is he can run for fun. Bundles of ability, bundles of enthusiasm and a really nice lad.

“He’s very quiet, doesn’t say a lot but he’s very effective in the way he plays in possession.”

One of the highlights of Stacey’s time in the Reading youth sides came under Kuhl in 2014 when the young Royals stunned Manchester City to lift the inaugural Premier League Cup.

Stacey netted the winning goal in the final at Madejski Stadium, capping off a memorable time in youth football before he made the breakthrough into the first team.

But he was restricted to just six appearances for the senior Reading side, instead sent on loan to Barnet having broken his ankle on the final day of the 2014-15 Championship campaign. Spells at Carlisle and Exeter followed before he was sold to League Two Luton, with Stacey admitting in a recent interview he was not expecting the Royals to move him on that summer.

And Kuhl believes other players should following the example set by Stacey.

He said: “He’s good for people to look at because he was highly rated. He’s had injuries and he’s come through and he’s gone down the leagues just to play men’s football, which is important and great credit to him.

“He’s come back through with Luton, done really well and now he’s signed for a Premier League club.

“Hopefully he can kick on from there and have many years at a Premier League club and Bournemouth stay there, it would be fantastic.

“He never lost faith in himself and he’s not one to shout and rant and rave, but he just gets on with the job. He’s effective at what he does.”

Kuhl added: “Jack’s a very, very good lad. He’s very mature, comes from a good family background and I think it’s a very, very good suit for him now (at Cherries).

“I think it’s a really good match. I think the Luton one was a good match for him.

“I think he was underestimated a little bit at Reading. He got around the first team with Jaap (Stam), wasn’t quite sure whether to be a winger. I think that’s because he was a number 10, he wanted to be more of an attacking winger, but we felt that him coming onto the game suited him better.

“I wouldn’t say he’s got blistering pace, but he’s got bundles of energy. His great ability was being wasted (as a winger), he grew into the right-back position and then went on loan and he thought ‘am I a winger?’ That was his biggest thing, where he was going to play.

“But I think full-back suits him. He’s gone to Luton and he’s been a full-back/wing-back and he’s done really well.

“I thought Stace was unlucky (at Reading). I think he was just finding his feet of what position he was, he had to get his mental state of what position.

“They played him more as a winger and I just thought if he needed to be a winger, he needed to score more and create more. But he can do that from full-back as well.”

He added: “Nowadays the big jewel is to reach the Premier League. It’s full of fantastic players.

“Now Jack’s got to readjust his sights and I’m sure he’ll do very, very well for Bournemouth.”