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First team

Determined Dominic looking to kick on after positive start to 2020

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Even though he is still only 22, Dominic Solanke has already experienced as much as a seasoned professional.

Reared at the much-vaunted Chelsea academy, Solanke added a Champions League runners-up medal to his collection following a high-profile move to Liverpool in 2017.

His trophy cabinet also houses a golden ball, awarded after he had helped England win the 2017 Under-20 World Cup.

Highly decorated while in the youth ranks at Stamford Bridge, Solanke now has his sights set on enjoying a successful career with the Cherries.

The striker played a starring role in helping Eddie Howe’s team register a potentially-crucial win over Brighton on Tuesday, his best game since he joined the club said his manager.

Solanke marked his first anniversary at Vitality Stadium by scoring his maiden goal for the club in a 4-0 victory against Luton Town in the third round of the FA Cup.

By his own admission, his first 12 months were “a bit tough” with injury hampering his progress.

Capped at every level by England, Solanke, who boasts an impressive goal ratio for his country, is hoping his productive start to 2020 will continue.

He told afcb.co.uk: “It was a difficult year for the team but, hopefully, now we’ve got that win, we can kick on.

“I had quite a few injuries in my first 12 months so it was a bit tough coming in and out.

“The manager has helped me a lot and I’ve had quite a lot of game time recently which has helped me. I’m learning a lot about my game and think I can only improve from here.

“The Brighton game was good for me and the team. I created a couple of goals so, hopefully, we can take confidence from that.

“There is more to come from me. If I keep playing, hopefully, I can build on the last game, get my confidence sky-high and score and create more goals.”

Asked how he handled pressure and criticism, Solanke said: “Sometimes, it can get a bit frustrating but you just have to focus on what you’re doing, where you’re going and focus on yourself.

“I don’t really care too much what people I don’t know are saying. I just care about the team, the manager and the people who give me feedback. I listen to my family as well.

“Obviously, I would have wanted to have had a few goals by now but I’ve just got to try to do my bit for the team, that’s the most important thing.”

Solanke was snapped up by Chelsea as a seven-year-old and went on to become the club’s youngest player to debut in the Champions League when he came off the bench against Maribor in October 2014 having just turned 17.

Discussing his path at the club, he said: “I started playing football in the garden with my older brother Liam.

“He played for a local team in Reading called South Reading and I played there for a bit before joining a team called Right Choice.

“From there, I was invited to train with Southampton, Reading and Chelsea. I signed for Chelsea when I was seven. They were the biggest club at the time so I was really excited.

“Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori were in the same age group so it’s good we’re all still playing.

“Among our coaches were Joe Edwards, who is now part of Frank Lampard’s team, Michael Beale and Jody Morris.

“At Chelsea, there are so many talented youth players, even now. Throughout the age groups, I always played with some of the best players in the country and we won quite a lot of tournaments. It was a good experience to play, make friends and win some tournaments.

“I just took it all as it came. I was confident and was doing well. Everything just kept going well and I just carried on. Growing up, my favourite players were Didier Drogba and Thierry Henry.

“I made my debut quite young in the Champions League. I was on the bench in the Premier League before that and thought I was coming on but the other team scored so Drogba went on instead. But I managed to make my debut later that week.

“I had a season on loan at Vitesse. I was young so it was a bit difficult but I think it was good for me because I ended up living on my own and learning that side of life. I grew into a man so that experience definitely helped me.

“Being at Chelsea from the age of seven, it would have been nice to stay but there is a point where you have to try different things and that’s what I chose.

“Liverpool is another huge club. At the time, I thought it would be a better option for me to go there.

“I learned a lot. They had a great team and a lot of good players so training with them really helped. They have a good manager and you can see how well they’re doing now so I learned a lot in that spell.

“Every player’s path is different. Their front three are world class and are probably the best frontline in the world at the moment so it was always going to be difficult to play.”

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