AFC Bournemouth coach Mark Molesley has described Sam Surridge as the “perfect example” to loan players at non-league clubs who aspire to make the grade.
Cherries striker Surridge cut his teeth at Weymouth and Poole Town before enjoying fruitful spells in League Two with Oldham Athletic and Yeovil Town.
His exploits saw him handed his Premier League debut by Eddie Howe in February 2019 before he starred for Swansea City in the Championship during the first half of 2019/20.
Surridge netted eight goals for the Swans, his efforts earning him a call up to the England under-21 squad with the Ferndown-raised hitman winning two caps.
Molesley, who worked with Surridge in the AFC Bournemouth under-21s, is hoping Cherries quartet Calum Ward, Brennan Camp, Shaun Hobson and Jaidon Anthony can plot a similar path.
They are set to feature when Weymouth, who are managed by Molesley, host Dorking Wanderers in the National South play-off semi-final at the Bob Lucas Stadium tomorrow (5.30pm kick-off).
Southern League champions last season, the Terras are just two games from reclaiming a place at the top table of the non-league pyramid having been third when the regulation season was brought to a premature end due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Discussing the four Cherries players and previewing the contest, under-21 assistant coach Molesley told afcb.co.uk: “All four of them have done fantastically well.
“The link is good for both clubs. I like to take our lads to Weymouth because I work with them every day and know they fit the style we like to play. We give a lot of lads their first introduction into men’s football.
“Sam Sherring was with us last season and at the start of this season and he gained valuable experience as well.
“Calum, Brennan and Shaun have been with us for most of the season and Jaidon joined in January so is relatively new to the squad.
“At Weymouth, they get to play in front of quite healthy crowds and learn about the pressure of trying to win three points. The experience is invaluable and that’s what loans are all about.
“They still get to train at Bournemouth and the messages are usually quite consistent between the two clubs.
“To play in a play-off semi-final is exactly what these lads need. These experiences early in their careers can stand them in good stead and really help their development.
“Sam Surridge is the perfect example. He has really climbed the ladder since earning his stripes during a few good loan spells. Everything is a dress rehearsal until you reach a first team.
“They need to get a taste for the real thing, that smell of a changing room, people turning up to watch you and trying to win three points.
“These are the bits we train them to deal with but, until they get out there and actually taste it, they need to get battle hardened.”
The winners of Saturday’s tie will face either Havant & Waterlooville or Dartford for a place in the National League.
Weymouth raised £35,000 through a crowdfunding appeal to support Molesley and his squad in their bid to win a second successive promotion.
Molesley added: “At one stage, we didn’t think we would even see this game. We stopped playing at the end of February and it looked unlikely.
“We were told we weren’t allowed to be in the play-offs and then some good people in and around our league fought the corner really well and got the play-offs back on.
“It has been great to be back training because we’ve missed it so much. It’s just great to be preparing for something.
“It’s going to be different. We haven’t kicked a ball competitively for four months and now we’ve got one of the biggest games in the club’s history.
“It’s going to be strange with no crowd and so much at stake but we’ve got to familiarise ourselves with the environment as quickly as we can.
“We’ve had no financial help from anyone to stage this game and have had to fund everything ourselves through our supporters and various initiatives.
“Everything has to be organised under strict Covid guidelines and it is the same as for a Premier League game – regular testing, temperature testing, form filling in and rightly so.
“For a club which after the playing squad is essentially volunteers, we’ve managed to put it on and it just shows how special this club is and what it means to the fans. They’ve supported and rallied round to get the game on and we are indebted to them.
“I think they have seen how hard the players have worked and how well they have done this season.
“I don’t think anyone externally would have felt we would have been in and around the higher reaches of the league.
“We were predicted to finish third bottom so to come third shows how much we have proved the doubters wrong.
“Internally, we always felt we could give teams a good run for their money and I think we have certainly done that but the journey is not over yet.”
Weymouth pictures: Mark Probin