As a professional footballer, you become accustomed to regularly uprooting your life and moving to a new location.

But for Cherries captain Simon Francis, Dorset feels very much like home.

Now 34, the Nottingham-born star is currently embarking on his eighth full season at the club, having initially joined on loan in 2011 eight years ago this week.

Throughout his 17 years as a pro, Francis’s career has seen him move from northern cities such as Bradford and Sheffield, slowly down towards the south of the country with spells in and around London at Southend United and Charlton Athletic.

That was before finally settling in Bournemouth, where he has now made more than 300 appearances for the town’s team since arriving on a £25,000 deal from Charlton.

And the club’s captain, who played a key role in guiding Cherries into the Premier League in 2015, has seen the area he now calls home change dramatically since his first visit to the south coast.

“The only time I’d been to Bournemouth was on a Christmas do at a different football club I was at, Southend I think,” Francis explained in an interview with Daily Echo.

“I actually really enjoyed it. I thought it was a good town, we had a good time. We did two days here, a Saturday night and a Sunday and it was a nice town.

“But it did feel a bit ‘seasidey’, a bit old-fashioned. But it’s certainly come a long way since then, even in the last eight years really. I think it’s changed a lot.

“Partly, or a big reason for that is obviously the club getting into the Premier League. I think there’s better restaurants now, there’s more things for people to do here, like BH2. I think they’ve cleaned it up a lot more, the town centre and down at the beach, hotels and that kind of thing. So I think it’s changed a lot, but definitely for the better.”

Asked how big a role he feels Cherries’ rise into English football’s top tier has had to play, Francis added: “It’s maybe not solely the reason, but I remember when the Hilton was being built – I don’t think they were building it because of the football club, but I know all the Premier League teams that play us, they stay there. Business is great for them.

“A lot of the lads stay there when they move down, new players. I think little things like that have coincided really well with the success of the football club and the town.”

Away from football, Francis has plenty to occupy his time. Having recently made a comeback from a serious knee injury which kept him out of action for almost nine months, the defender has begun taking on more media work, featuring regularly on Sky Sports. He also coaches at his own football academy for children, taking over the responsibility from Harry Arter.

He also has a young family and enjoys trips around the county with wife Ashley and their two children Halle and Jude.

“We’ve done quite a lot of Dorset,” said Francis. “Obviously having two children, they like to go out and about so whether it’s over to Studland on the ferry or we’ve travelled to the New Forest which is excellent. We’ve stayed over there a few times and when we have family and friends down it’s always nice to visit different areas. The most perfect place for us over the past few months would be Shell Bay over at Studland. We’ve been to The Pig a few times and we’ve stayed at the one in the New Forest a couple of times with the kids and they love that.

“You’ve got Lime Wood as well, I think the New Forest has got loads of great restaurants.

“But I think if you want to come down to Bournemouth and you want to experience what the seaside is all about and having the beach on your doorstep, then Shell Bay is the perfect place. The family who own it, their little girl is in Halle’s school, so that’s how we got to kind of know them and then went over there a few times.

“I think it’s one of the best restaurants in the whole of Dorset, a fish restaurant so it serves great fresh fish. It’s an experience – you get the ferry over, take the kids and they love it. Then you’ve got the views of the harbour and the whole of Sandbanks and Poole, it’s lovely.”

But it is not just with his family that Francis likes to get out and about around town, frequently meeting up with his Cherries team-mates for coffee.

“We used to always have a coffee club with the lads after training and we’ll be in town or in Westbourne,” he explained.

“It used to be Starbucks but now we’re more coffee connoisseurs, so we go to the more independent places, South Coast Roast or Le Petit Prince in Westbourne, or Coffee Saloon. We like the little independent places a lot better really, it’s better coffee anyway.”

Although confident he still has plenty to offer on the pitch, at 34 Francis is heading into the twilight of his playing career.

But despite more than half his life living further north, he hopes to remain living in Dorset after hanging up his boots.

“I think we’ll stay here for the long run, definitely,” said Francis.

“We’re planning on moving pretty soon. We’ve got a house project that we’d like to renovate and make a family home. So that’ll definitely be one of the reasons that we want to stay here and being involved with the football club, hopefully for more years to come.

“We’d love to stay down here.”