FOLLOWING a meeting with Jason Tindall last August, Simon Francis's mind was made up.

Almost 18 years after turning pro, a playing career which had spanned across seven clubs, included two promotions, a brief stint on the international stage and five seasons as a Premier League defender, was over.

It is understood interest from much further down the English football pyramid to carry on playing came Francis's way, but, at 35, he was ready for a new chapter.

"It was an easy decision for me, to be honest," Francis told the Daily Echo.

"I’d kind of made my mind up the moment I was released from the football club, the moment I’d had the conversation with Jason.

"I almost went into that meeting saying to myself, okay, if there isn’t a contract for me on the playing side, I think I’m going to call it a day.

"I’d had numerous injuries coming out of lockdown. I felt like I’d let the team and Eddie (Howe) down on a personal level, because I couldn’t contribute on the pitch.

"I had to have another minor operation with my knee. At that stage I just felt like I didn’t have much more to offer as a player.

"I’d love to have stayed on in a playing capacity, just to be in and around the lads in the changing room to help us try and get promotion last season, but that obviously wasn’t the case. And then it was almost as soon as I came out of there I rang Richard (Hughes) and said, look, I want to come and work for the football club, I want to do the recruitment side of it.

"I’ve got to say, I didn’t tell my agent that for about three to four weeks! He was still looking for clubs for me, but I kind of knew the phone wasn’t going to ring, I knew how much of an impact the pandemic had had.

"To be out of contract and to be injured at my age, I know I wasn’t going to be a huge sell to a lot of clubs. So I’d sort of made my mind up really and I was absolutely fine with it.

"Lockdown had prepared me for it, spending a lot of time at home with the kids. So it was the right time for me, no doubt."

So that was that. Over eight years on from signing permanently for just £25,000 from Charlton Athletic, having made 324 appearances and captained the side during his latter years at the club, Francis's Cherries career, and his playing career, was done.

Bournemouth Echo:

In normal times, he would likely have been afforded the grandest of send-offs from the Cherries fans.

But with no supporters allowed into matches due to the coronavirus pandemic, added to the fact Francis never officially announced his retirement, instead taking up a backroom scouting role at the club, one of Cherries' all-time greats slipped away quietly.

Asked if he feels it was a shame for his time as a player to end as it did, Francis explained: "You’d have to ask maybe the fans. I’d always like to think I get a good reception off the fans anyway. I still live in the area so if I see them at games, which I’m sure I will next season, even when I’m out and about with the family, I’ve always got time to speak to the fans on that level.

"I’m not really one for big send-offs. I’m not on social media so I didn’t put anything out there.

"I didn’t feel I needed to announce my retirement, because it’s kind of one of those things you do if you’re a top, top player and you want the recognition that you deserve.

"I feel like I gave everything for the football club. I did as much as I could for the football club and I wanted the transition to be seamless really.

"I wanted to go in and help the football club straightaway on the non-playing side. I feel like I’m doing that now.

"I’m very excited for the season to come and to answer your question, if anything I’m just looking forward to seeing fans back in the stadium, especially for home games and being there and being able to witness that again."

While last summer signalled the end of an era for Francis, this year also heralds another fresh chapter in his post-playing career.

The former England youth international was last month named as Cherries' new assistant first-team technical director, working under Hughes.

Discussing his new role, Francis said: "I had a really good year last year. I think it was the right time for everyone at the club for me to take a step back as such, not detach myself but get away from the grass, from the training ground and that kind of thing and learn this side of the game really.

"For 18 years as a professional, all I’ve known is being a player and not really knowing the amount of effort that goes into the scouting side of football, the recruitment side of the game and that year was vital last season. Even more so because COVID hit, which meant that we couldn’t get to hardly any games as a scouting department, so I was working with Andy Howe, Carl Fletcher was in as loans manager, Richard Hughes obviously, Craig McKee, Mark Burchill, who was the chief scout, and Des Taylor, all guys who have been at the football club for an awful long time.

"So I was in and around a great group of guys to learn my trade if you like in that first year.

"Last season was hard to scout players because the majority of time you’re playing in front of no fans. Especially the younger generation, you’re watching players not know what it’s like to feel the pressure of the crowd, that kind of thing. So it was a hard season in that sense, but it was a great season for me, a real learning curve to learn the recruitment side of the game.

"It just felt like the natural progression with this season, with the new manager coming in, Scott (Parker) and his staff, working closely also with Richard Hughes.

"We’d had numerous conversations, myself, Richard and (chief executive) Neill Blake and it just felt like the right step.

"A lot of successful football clubs do have an assistant to the sporting director or to the technical director. I just want to be on hand with the guys.

"I’ve been closer to the training ground, to the manager, to the staff, it’s been excellent and exactly the way I’ve wanted it really, so I’ve enjoyed it so far."