SATURDAY’S victory over Barnsley marked not only Ben Pearson’s return to the starting XI, but also a landmark moment in his Cherries career.

The 1-0 win at Oakwell came a year to the day since Pearson completed his move to Cherries from Preston North End, on a deal until the summer of 2024.

A lot has changed in that time. Just five days after signing, Pearson was already working under his second boss at the club, following the departure of Jason Tindall.

He went on to play a key role under Jonathan Woodgate, eventually starting in both legs of the Championship play-off semi-finals against Brentford.

Following the two-legged loss against the Bees, Cherries changed direction again with Scott Parker brought to the helm.

Ankle injuries and illness meant Pearson had a disrupted start to this campaign, before he did break into the side. However, Pearson had to wait three months from October until Saturday’s clash at Oakwell to complete 90 minutes again in the league, partly down to injury.

He did also play the full game in the FA Cup win at non-league Yeovil Town in that time. In his eventful first year at Cherries, Pearson has made 38 appearances, 13 of them coming as a substitute.

Speaking in pre-season about his first six months at Cherries, Pearson told the Daily Echo: “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster really, hasn’t it? Obviously three managers, the joy of getting into the play-offs and then the disappointment of that Brentford game at the end.

“But I had a good summer, a chance to refresh.

“Probably since I came here I haven’t really been settled as of yet.

“I got a new apartment for the year when we get back from Spain (Marbella training camp), which will be nice for me to get settled and properly have a home down here.

“That was important for me to get sorted. I’ve sort of been living out my car at the minute for the past six months since I’ve been down here. But it’s been fine, it’s what football’s about, isn’t it?”

Central midfield has arguably provided the toughest competition for places over the past 12 months within Cherries’ squad. Since arriving, Pearson has been battling with the likes of Jefferson Lerma, Lewis Cook, Philip Billing and Gavin Kilkenny for a starting berth, as well as Jack Wilshere last season and Emiliano Marcondes this term.

Asked if his biggest challenge now, one year on from his arrival, is to nail down a starting spot in the team, Pearson told the Daily Echo: “Yeah, I’d say so. I think in my position there’s three or four real outstanding players, so it’s tough to get that sort of run of games.

“I think you’ve got to be performing really well consistently to keep your place.

“I think that’s good, especially where we are in the league, we need everyone. Everyone is pushing each other so when someone comes in, they have to perform to keep their shirt.

“I think that’s what the manager wants, that’s how it’s been for the past six or seven months and long may that continue.”

Looking back at his impressive performance against Barnsley, the first time he had started a Championship game in seven weeks, Pearson added: “The last 20 minutes I started struggling a little bit.

“I think that position isn’t so much on your legs, it’s more about positioning and where you need to be. I felt okay.

“I’ve been working hard in training to try and get back in the side. I had a good week and obviously the manager has trusted me to put me in (on Saturday) and we’ve won, so that’s the main thing.

“That’s all I can do.”

Discussing Pearson's performance against Barnsley, boss Parker said: "Ben Pearson I thought was exceptional, he was everywhere.

"He took his chance, massively. I thought he epitomised everything we needed to be.

"Fair play to him, showed the character of the man really, because he's not had a lot of game-time over the last few weeks. He comes into this side and produces a performance like he did (on Saturday), it was a large part of why we've come away with three points."