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Under-21s

Marksman Saydee targets leading role

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Watching from the wings as AFC Bournemouth made history has whetted Christian Saydee’s appetite for a shot at taking centre stage.

The teenage striker was an unused substitute as the Cherries reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for only the second time last season.

Saydee looked on from the bench as Sam Surridge’s goal and a Junior Stanislas penalty sealed a 2-0 victory against Premier League Burnley in February.

And he was again drafted into Jonathan Woodgate’s matchday squad when the FA Cup adventure was ended by Southampton in the last 16 in March.

A prolific goalscorer during his time with Alan Connell’s under-18s, Saydee continued his footballing education in his first season with Shaun Cooper’s under-21s.

The frontman made further progress and enjoyed another excellent campaign which included a brief spell on loan to Weymouth in the National League.

But it was sharing a changing room with the first team at Turf Moor and Vitality Stadium which has given Saydee a glimpse of what he hopes will be a taste of things to come.

Saydee, who turned 19 last month, told afcb.co.uk: “Being involved with the first team in the FA Cup was a real confidence booster.

“There were a few young lads on the bench and it was great to think the gaffer trusted us for such big games.

“I know I didn’t play but watching was a great experience, especially the Burnley game because we won and went through to the next round.

“Just being around the first team, being involved in big games and watching them has made me even more determined to push on.”

Saydee, who joined the Cherries at 16 having spent nine years with Reading, sustained two serious injuries during his time in the under-18s.

But despite spending a fair chunk of his scholarship on the sidelines, the frontman did more than enough to earn a place in the under-21s.

His exploits for the under-18s prompted former boss Eddie Howe to elevate him to the first team, with Saydee named on the bench for the 3-2 defeat by Tottenham at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the Premier League in November 2019.

Saydee said: “My first season with the under-21s has been very good. I was pleased with how it went and especially with how I came back after the injuries the previous season.

“I was unfortunate to get injured when I was on a good run of form and they kept me back. But injuries are part of football and I’m grateful to have such good people around me to push me on.

“The season started slowly and then everyone, the manager and the staff, helped and pushed me hard to become fitter and a better player.

“I felt I got better and better as the season progressed and, although I had some dips, I have got to be satisfied with how my first year went with the under-21s.

“In the under-18s, I was one of the stronger players and could almost bully my way through games. Coming up against older and stronger players in the under-21s, I have had to find different ways to play.

“I have always relied on pace and power and it had started to become a habit. But I’ve had to learn to be less predictable and how to use my body.

“My aim now is to come back as fit as possible and, hopefully, make my debut next season. I just want to play as many games as possible.”

Saydee played an integral role as Cooper’s team won the Central League Cup and Hampshire Senior Cup.

He scored in both competitions and drew first blood in the Central League Cup final as the Cherries overcame Carlisle at St George’s Park in April.

And while his loan spell at Weymouth was short-lived due to Covid issues, Saydee still took plenty from his time at the Bob Lucas Stadium in December.

“Weymouth was good,” he said. “It was a really beneficial experience even if I didn’t stay there too long.

“One of the best experiences I had was playing against Torquay at the Bob Lucas Stadium. They were top of the league at the time and their centre-back was always on to me.

“Every time the ball came near me, he would smash me in the back and be all over me. He made life very difficult for me.

“But I need experiences like that to make me a better player. I know I can’t always rely on my strength and I had to deal with it and try to find new ways to play.

“I was going to go back there but the gaffer called me in and said I was going to be on the bench for the FA Cup so I stayed.”

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