As breakthrough seasons go, Jaidon Anthony’s is right up there with the best of them.
Turn the clock back to last summer and Anthony must have been wondering what 2021/22 would have in store for him.
The exciting frontman was restricted to five brief substitute appearances in the Championship and looked on from the bench as the Cherries lost out to Brentford in the play-offs.
His combined 70 minutes in the league came under two different managers, as did his two runouts in the FA Cup against Oldham and Southampton.
With a return to the Premier League the priority and the arrival of Scott Parker as head coach, Anthony knew he needed to make an immediate impression.
And with the squad boosted by the additions of Ryan Christie, Emi Marcondes, Jamal Lowe and Morgan Rogers, Anthony knew competition for places would be fierce.
Fast forward to the end of this season and Anthony has been one of the biggest success stories of a momentous campaign which culminated in promotion.
Only Dominic Solanke made more appearances than Anthony in all competitions, the 22-year-old academy graduate contributing eight goals and seven assists.
He reached a personal milestone of 50 league games when he lined up in the 1-0 win against Millwall on the final day and added a second promotion to a burgeoning CV having helped Weymouth win a place in the National League two years ago.
“The season has been amazing from start to finish,” said Anthony, in an interview with afcb.co.uk.
“As a team, we had our ups and downs but, for me personally, I can’t be any happier with how it’s gone.
“It’s been special and, hopefully, it can be even better next season and we can have some success in the Premier League.
“The gaffer has shown a lot of faith in me this season and I’m so grateful for that. Hopefully, we can have another special season and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Anthony accepted an offer to join the Cherries academy following a successful trial spell in 2016 having spent ten years in the youth ranks at Arsenal.
During his decade with the Gunners, he progressed alongside Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson and regularly did battle with the likes of Mason Mount, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi, all Champions League winners with Chelsea last season.
Anthony said: “Being released by Arsenal was a tough time in my development and I was grateful to AFC Bournemouth for giving me the opportunity, a second chance in some senses.
“Winning promotion to the Premier League is something I dreamed of as a kid. If I get the chance to play against Arsenal and go back there, hopefully, I’ll have a good game.
“To be honest, I’m not just looking at one team, I’m looking at all of them. I’m a huge fan of football in general and it’s going to be crazy to think we are going to come up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kevin de Bruyne, to name but two world-class players in the Premier League.
“We know how difficult it’s going to be and how good the quality is, especially the top six. It’s exciting and we have nothing to fear.
“We will keep developing and growing as a team. Everybody is looking forward to it and, whatever happens, hopefully we will have some success and do well for the club.”
Discussing his memorable campaign, Anthony said: “I would have snapped someone’s hand off at the start of the season to play 48 games, score eight goals and get seven assists.
“I would have hoped for stats like those but, if anyone told me at the start of the season that I would finish up with them, I probably would have laughed!
“I didn’t get too many appearances during the previous season so it was hard to think of anything like this.
“I need to have another good pre-season and impress the gaffer. I want to help the team again next season and keep progressing.
“A few of us came through the academy together and when we came in during pre-season, we were still quite new to the group.
“We stuck together and pushed each other on. You could see that at the start of the season when there were a lot of academy graduates in the squad, playing games and helping the team.
“It’s been a special season for the academy and I think the academy staff can take full credit for that. Now, it’s our turn to give the young players coming through someone to look up to.”
I can’t be any happier with how the season has gone