CAPTAIN Simon Francis admits the departure of Joshua King "would've been a huge blow" to Cherries after Manchester United made a late move to sign the striker last week, adding how his imminent return from injury will be "almost like a new signing".

King, 28, was subject of a bid from the Red Devils the day before the January transfer window closed, but Cherries rejected the offer for their all-time leading Premier League goalscorer.

Speaking to the Daily Echo about how nervous he was of losing the striker, Francis joked: "I was round his house and took his car keys away from him just in case he was trying to drive up to Manchester!

"It’s great for the football club that bigger clubs are coming in. It means that our lads are doing well, but that would’ve been a huge blow if Kingy had gone of course.

"Manchester United, when they show an interest it’s hard to not be swayed by that, but that’s going to be a huge boost for us, almost like a new signing when he comes back."

King has missed Cherries' last seven games with a hamstring injury, suffered in defeat at Brighton in December. But he could return for the trip to Bramall Lane on Sunday (2pm).

"Hopefully he’ll be fit for the Sheffield United game," said Francis.

"He’s been excellent for us this season, a real integral part of the squad, part of the team. To have him back is going to be great.

"He was in on Saturday with the lads in the changing room, wishing everyone luck.

"I think that’s how he’s got to be. The window is shut now. I know his character, I know what kind of a lad he is and he’ll get his head down and work hard.

"That’s his mentality. He’s always going to work hard. He’s got that nature about him so I expect no different from him."