CHERRIES’ Chris Mepham looks forward to friendly against his former youth side and European champions Chelsea, saying “it’s where it all started for me.”

The Hammersmith-born Welsh international was on the Blues’ books between 2008 and 2012 before joining Brentford – where he made his name in football.

Mepham became good friends with current Cherries star Dominic Solanke but also came through with current Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham, and saw the likes of Mason Mount thriving in lower year groups.

Chelsea had released the centre-back aged 14 though, where he then faced further rejection at more London clubs before finding a hive in the Bees.

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Now, his former side come to town led by manager Thomas Tuchel in Cherries’ first 2021-22 home friendly and final warm-up game before the EFL Cup kicks off this Saturday, against MK Dons.

Speaking ahead of the game, where Cherries fans will be able to get a first taste of life under head coach Scott Parker, Mepham told the club website: “It’s where it all started for me.

“They gave me the platform to go on, all the training techniques and the understanding of the game that I needed to push on.

“It’s a period of my life I really enjoyed. I made some strong friendships there, Dominic Solanke being one of them who’s now here. I came through all the age groups with him, unfortunately I got let go at under-14s – he was good enough to kick on!

“We’ve always had a good relationship and look at us playing together now, it’s an amazing story really. I came through with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount was in the year below and I know him. There were a few I know, the Chelsea academy always produces quality players.”

As a handful of Cherries squad have already said, the opportunity to play against the current Champions League winners will be a learning experience for all involved – even if it’s not a game of competitive nature.

The Blues ruthlessly defeated recently promoted and fellow Championship side Peterborough United 6-1 just last week, with aforementioned Abraham and USA international Christian Pulisic on the scoresheet – while Hakim Ziyich netted a hat-trick.

Tuchel’s side look to mean business again and Cherries will have to be on their toes, whilst relishing one last chance to get up to match fitness before the competitive schedule gets under way.

Mepham added: “There’s no better opportunity for us as a group to come up against the European Champions; they’re that for a reason and since their new manager’s come in they look a really good team.

“They can compete with any club in the world and that makes it a good test, one that hopefully we can stand up to.”