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First team

Mepham keen to blossom with the Cherries


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Having ditched plans to become a gardener in favour of pursuing his dream of making it as a professional footballer, Chris Mepham is determined to come up smelling of roses.

Defender Mepham has shown signs of his rich potential since joining the Cherries from Championship outfit Brentford in the January transfer window.

Released by Chelsea at 14 and rejected following trials with Watford and QPR, Mepham contemplated taking over his uncle’s gardening business before he was spotted by a Brentford scout playing for non-league North Greenford.

He made just 48 appearances for the Bees before he was snapped up by Eddie Howe who handed Mepham his debut as a substitute in the Cherries’ memorable 4-0 win over Chelsea in January.

The Wales international went on to feature in 12 further games in the top flight and experienced all the emotions which come with the territory.

Mepham, 21, told afcb.co.uk: “It’s gone really well. When I first joined, I must admit I wasn’t sure how much game-time I would get. 

 “I knew it was a massive jump from the Championship to the Premier League so thought it would take me a while to bed in, settle in to the group and learn the way that the gaffer wants me to play.

 “I certainly got my opportunity quicker than probably me and the gaffer thought I would but that happens in football. I was delighted I got the opportunity so early as it allowed me to get the game-time which is so valuable for me at such a young age.

“I’ve experienced the good side of winning and playing well and the not-so-good times. But at 21, it’s important to experience both because it will stand you in good stead going forward.

“When you lose 5-1 at Arsenal, you have to come away and see it as a learning experience. The following week we had Manchester City and they don’t come much harder than that.

“When you make mistakes or the team doesn’t deliver collectively, you need to see it as a learning opportunity and try to bounce back. There are probably more lows than highs in football so it’s important to deal with them. 

 “Credit to the manager, he gave me my chance. I had the same thing at Brentford where Dean Smith threw me in at the deep end when I was 19.

“Some players have to wait until they are 22 or 23 to get their opportunity and, luckily, I got mine earlier than most.

“I think it’s about being in a position where you feel as ready as you can be to take the opportunity and I think I was in good shape when it came for me.

“Looking back on the season as a whole, I think it was really positive and I loved every minute of it.”

Mepham said the likes of David Brooks, Matt Butcher, Mark Travers, Sam Surridge and Kyle Taylor had helped him settle in the area and added he was looking forward to a full pre-season with the Cherries.

“I can’t wait,” said Mepham, who is in the Wales squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Croatia and Hungary in June. 

“It’s always difficult joining in midway through the season, getting used to a new team, new teammates, a new area and moving away from home and family.

“It took a bit of time to adjust but it will be good to do a full pre-season here, hit the ground running and put myself in a position where I feel as fit and ready as I can be come the first game of the season.

“I was in a hotel for the first six weeks and then moved into rented accommodation. It’s good to have your own space in a nice area.

“I spend a lot of time with the other younger lads. We go for coffee, have dinner at each other’s houses and watch football on the telly.

“That has really helped me and I wasn’t just coming back from training and sitting on my own getting bored at home. Sometimes we have a round of mini-golf and it take your mind off things.

“I know competition for places is going to be fierce at the start of next season. I just want to do everything in my power to put myself in as good a position as possible to be ready for the start of pre-season and the start of the season.”

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