DEPARTING Andrew Surman expressed his gratitude to Cherries for giving him a way out of his post-retirement limbo, as he explained the reasons behind his switch to Southampton.

After a year working as assistant coach of Cherries under-18s, Surman has now moved along the south coast to neighbours Saints, taking up the same role in their academy from this week.

Surman, 37, came through the youth ranks at Southampton, spending time on loan at Cherries in the 2005-06 season.

After making 146 appearances for Saints’ first team, he left to join Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2009, subsequently linking back up with Cherries from 2013 to 2020.

Bournemouth Echo: 2007-08 - Andrew Surman

There, the midfielder helped the club clinch promotion to the Premier League for the first time, leaving having played 226 times for the Dorset outfit, netting 11 goals.

A spell at Milton Keynes Dons, playing under his former Norwich City teammate Russell Martin, followed, before hanging up his boots in 2021.

After some time away from the game, Surman returned to football in January 2023, linking up with Cherries after a conversation with assistant technical director Simon Francis.

The penultimate game in his role with the under-18s came in the sensational 5-0 win at Newcastle United in the FA Youth Cup last month.

It is understood Surman's former Cherries teammate Junior Stanislas, who recently joined the club's academy coaching staff, could step in to the role.

Reflecting on his year back at Cherries, Surman told the Daily Echo: “It was brilliant. I was grateful for the opportunity.

“I had 18 months off after I retired and then wasn’t quite sure what to do.

“But football was always sort of calling me back.

“I had a lot of experience and wanted to impart that. I spoke to Franno, who said they were trying to build something and the opportunity came up.

“It was perfect. I slotted straight in as under-18s assistant to Dan Carroll.

“He was brilliant for me. I was obviously just starting out and he helped me loads with my coaching.

“Then James Lowy took over in the summer, so I’ve been assisting him as well. He’s a really, really good coach.

“This year has really been about me learning the ropes and finding out how to coach, how it all works and all the stuff that goes into it, which I didn’t realise when I played.

“So it’s been a really good year of experience.”

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Discussing his state of flux after retiring from playing, Surman added: “I had been playing football since I was 10. When you stop, it is difficult, because you don’t know what to do.

“I looked after myself financially and everything like that, but I’d been playing for so long, I retired and just thought I needed to see what I wanted to do next.

“It is difficult, because you retire and you’re sort of trying to work out who you are then.

“You’re not a footballer anymore, so what are you going to be? What are you going to do?

“I found it tough, to be fair. But when the opportunity came, I thought it felt right so I went for it.”

The former England under-21 international admits there has been more to coaching than he imagined.

“Coaching is full on, I’ve got to be honest,” explained Surman.

“It’s a lot different to playing. You don’t realise the work that goes into sessions, developing players, working out the teams and analysis. But it is enjoyable.

“There’s a lot of enjoyable things about it. But it is full on and it is a lot of hard work.

“I’m sure any coach will tell you the hours are long and hard, but it’s all good. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s just a lot different to when I played.”

Reflecting on the win at Newcastle, Surman said: “It was perfect.

“You put a lot of work in on the training ground or in the office watching games. We worked out how Newcastle played, their strengths, their weaknesses, then putting your gameplan together with the players you’ve got, obviously wanting to develop them, but I think development in itself was just playing at St James’ Park, for them feeling that occasion and experiencing it is a massive development tool.

“The players work so hard every day and they are working towards those sorts of occasions.

“On those sort of evenings, it’s usually down to who manages the occasion and I thought the players and staff managed the occasion really, really well. I think they got their just desserts really, winning 5-0.”

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Now it is time for a new chapter for Surman, who will assist Saints under-18s boss Calum McFarlane.

Explaining his move, Surman said: “I’ve always had a really strong connection with Southampton.

“I’ve supported them since I was young, came through their academy and played there.

“I’ve always had a good relationship with the club and my two boys still go and watch Southampton play, they’ve both got season tickets.

“So I’ve got a strong affiliation with the club.

“Obviously with Russell being there as well, having played with him and played for him, there’s a strong connection there.

“But I felt what he is doing there is exciting.

“Obviously geographically it helps, because it’s a lot closer as I live in Southampton as well. So it just ticked a lot of boxes for me.

“But with the project they’re starting now, I think it sounded really good.

“It was just an opportunity I felt was a good one for me.

“But I was really happy at Bournemouth, so it is bittersweet really, because I really enjoyed my time.

“There was nothing I wasn’t happy with at Bournemouth.

“But I think it was just an opportunity that came up at the right time for me and hopefully it will all work out well.”