Jason Pearce has fond memories of leading AFC Bournemouth to promotion, a feat he describes as “an amazing achievement by everyone connected with the club”.
Pearce, a tough-tackling central defender, took over the captain’s armband midway through the 2009/10 season as the Cherries finished as runners-up in League Two.
At 22, he was one of the youngest skippers in the club’s history but took the responsibility in his stride and went on to be crowned supporters’ player of the year in 2010/11.
Signed by Kevin Bond on a free transfer from Portsmouth in 2007, Pearce made 183 appearances in all competitions before rejoining Pompey in June 2011.
Following spells at Leeds and Wigan, he signed for Charlton in August 2016 and captained them to League One play-off final victory over Sunderland at Wembley last season.
Pearce remembers a challenging pre-season under fitness guru Jon Dalzell standing the Cherries in good stead as they won eight of their first nine games to top the table at the end of September.
A key performer in the Cherries’ Greatest Escape of 2008/09, Pearce netted a crucial winner in a 1-0 victory over Aldershot during the impressive run.
Recalling the events of a memorable campaign in our series of interviews for The Journey, Pearce told afcb.co.uk: “I knew Jon Dalzell from my Portsmouth days so knew what he was about.
“Jon came in and knew exactly what he wanted to do. He was his own man and had strong opinions. It was a tough pre-season but a good one.
“We won the first three games and that set us off on the front foot and gave us confidence.
“We went to Bury on the opening day and that was always going to be a tough start.
“They had a few good players and Ryan Lowe scored a lot of goals. To win 3-0 put a real stamp on the league and showed what we were about.
“We had a real togetherness. With Eddie in charge, he set the standards. Training was of the highest level and he is one of the best coaches I’ve played under. It set us apart and I think it showed with the start we had.
“I remember the goal against Aldershot. I was brought up in Fleet which is just around the corner from Aldershot so it was a big goal for me. Brett put a free-kick in and I managed to get a slight glance on it. I remember going mad when it went in.”
The Cherries reached the turn of the year in second place, five points behind Rochdale and nine clear of fourth-placed Notts County.
But three defeats in succession at the start of January against Northampton, Bury and Aldershot widened the gap on the leaders to ten points and narrowed it to four on fourth-placed Rotherham who had three games in hand.
Pearce replaced Danny Hollands as captain following the defeat by Northampton and, although the Cherries lost their next two games, the ship was steadied by five wins and three draws in their next ten.
“There were a lot of highs during the season,” said Pearce. “A lot of the time when we lost or drew, we would turn it round in the next game and win.
“But there was a period just after Christmas when we lost three games in a row. That was a time which could have turned the season and had a negative effect.
“To bounce back after we had lost three games in a row showed the character of the team and of the manager and the togetherness of the squad to turn it round. We had a rough patch but managed to see it out.
“The captaincy issue was an awkward one. I really respected Danny, as a person and as a captain. He was having a good career and had come from Chelsea.
“It was a bold statement to do something like that especially during the season. Although I was young at the time, I’ve always felt like a leader.
“I got on well with the lads and people respected me. I’m very much a team player. I spoke with Danny about it and he was fine with it. That spoke volumes about the type of person he is.
“I remember playing against Lee Hughes in the Notts County game. He was renowned for being quite a dirty player and a bit naughty as well. I think he left one on Ryan Garry that night and smashed his nose.
“They were a big club at that level and it was always going to be a tough game.
"It’s always a challenge playing people like Lee Hughes but we managed to keep him quiet and got a massive result.
“The lads were so focused in the build-up to the Burton Albion game.
"There was huge excitement but also some nerves as well. Eddie always kept us focused and professional to make sure we got the job done.
“It was a beautiful sunny day and the pitch was perfect. It suited us down to the ground the way we wanted to play the game.
“Brett was on fire that season and you always knew you had a chance with someone like him in your team.
"He got the first goal and Alan Connell got the second. The scenes at the end were brilliant and it was an amazing achievement.
“Looking back at that team and squad, it was probably one of the most together groups I have been involved in.
"In your career, you meet so many different people but I’ve kept in contact with more of that squad than any other I’ve played in.
“It just goes to show how close the bond was. We had a great time and it was a really memorable period of our careers.”