WHEN Alan Connell first walked through the door at Dean Court, Cherries’ youth set-up was a one-man band conducted by Joe Roach.

Nowadays, Academy manager Roach heads a department comprising more than 100 staff – with Connell the club’s under-18 boss.

Signed by Sean O’Driscoll as a fresh-faced 19-year-old in July 2002, Connell is five months into his first managerial role having been promoted in the summer.

Decorated with honours during his own playing career, Connell has spent the past few weeks preparing for his biggest game since he took the reins.

And while four promotions, a player-of-the-year award and League Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy runners-up medals may adorn his CV, Connell would like nothing more than to help play a part in bringing some FA Youth Cup success to Cherries.

The club’s young guns will on Friday host Hull City at Vitality Stadium (6.30pm) bidding to end a wretched record which has seen them knocked out in the third round in each of the past four seasons.

“Historically, we haven’t had a good record but I believe in this group of players and we have a lot of quality in the squad,” said Connell.

“The FA Youth Cup is the pinnacle of our season and we want to progress. Hopefully, we will get a good crowd to support the lads.

“It is an experience for them to take into the rest of their careers. They will play at a Premier League stadium under lights and in front of a crowd.

“We have put in a lot of work and hope our preparation comes to fruition with the lads delivering a performance worthy of the AFC Bournemouth shirt.”

A promotion winner with Cherries in his two spells at the club – in 2003 and 2010 – Connell cut his teeth in the youth ranks by spending two years coaching the under-12s.

“That gave me a solid grounding,” said the 34-year-old, who was a popular figure with the Cherries faithful. “It helped me take the step up to the youth team.

“I am really enjoying the job and couldn’t have picked a better place. The club has been very good to me over the years and I am delighted to have been given this opportunity.”

Cool, calm and collected as a striker on the pitch, Connell says he has learned lessons from all the managers he played under, both good and not so good.

“I always try to put myself in the player’s shoes,” he added. “When I have to make a decision or give them information, I try to think how I would have received it.

“There are good and bad elements to the job. It is not easy when you have to leave out players but you have to be honest with them.

“I have been that player and experienced that disappointment so know what it is like. It is a difficult part of the job. You need to be constructive and try to get a positive reaction.

“I have had to deal with a couple of difficult situations, not necessarily football-related. There is a lot more to it than just turning up in the morning and putting on a session.

“You have to try to make them better players but you also have to teach them about growing up and dealing with life experiences.

“Being a young manager and having played until quite recently has helped. I feel I have a healthy relationship with the players and you live and die by decisions.

“One of the biggest advantages we have is that the players know a lot of the staff played for the club and they respect that.

“The values of hard work and professionalism all come from the top and we all know exactly what the manager wants and demands from us.

“I just try to be myself. There are standards and expectations at this club that need to be met and I reiterate that message every day to my players.

“I have no idea where I will be in 10 years. I would love to think I will still be working here. There is so much going on I haven’t looked that far ahead. My focus is on improving the players and preparing for our next game.”

Admission for the game is £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, with supporters able to enter Vitality Stadium via turnstile B at gates four, five and six in the Main Stand.