AFC Bournemouth defender Jordan Zemura has praised the unity of the under-21s ahead of the return to Premier League Cup action this week.
The side face Nottingham Forest at Alfreton Town on Friday (7pm) and the 20-year-old will be hoping to continue the form that has them top of group E after three matches.
Zemura joined the Cherries from Charlton Athletic in the summer and has become a prominent member of the under-21 squad, training with the first team on a number of occasions.
He told afcb.co.uk: “This season is everything I have wanted it to be. When I joined, my manager Shaun Cooper and Mark Molesey told me if I give them everything that I’ve got, they’ll give me everything they’ve got, and I think that is exactly how it has gone.
“All the staff, from the sports scientists to the coaches, have worked so hard to keep on pushing me and I feel I have developed massively.”
The London-born Zimbabwean has hailed the influence of his parents in helping him acclimatise to the ethos of Bournemouth, with his hard work and positive personality notable.
He added: “I give everything to my parents, I would give them the whole world. They’ve given me that tough love to develop that mental toughness.
“With my dad, it’s a little bit more about my mindset and how to control myself.
“He always speaks to me about reading, about being more than just a footballer, to continuously push your mind to bigger and better things which is something that I think has helped me a lot.
“It has helped me focus more, as well as developing other avenues off-the-pitch and as a person it makes you want to achieve everything you want to achieve. With people like my dad behind you, you feel like you won’t fail in a way.”
His parents moved to the UK from Zimbabwe just before Zemura was born and the youngster grew up on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
Zemura added: “With my mum, she’s my biggest fan and I love her to bits. She helps me understand it is okay that I’ve had bad days where I feel like I haven’t trained well, or haven’t played well, because she reminds me I’ve got another chance to prove myself.
“She’s such a hard-working woman, she works in a hard environment [as a nurse at a prison] so how can I not work as hard as she does?”
The grounding that Zemura’s parents have given him has allowed him to embrace the ethos that is driven by Eddie Howe and his coaching staff in the first team and runs down to the youngest age-groups of the Academy.
Zemura explained: “The ethos at the club is massive. We always say before the matches, no matter what we do, we work harder than the opposition and means that while we have a lot of technical and physical talent, as a team we’re all in unison and we work hard.
“The important thing for me, as a full-back, is that my winger, whether it is Jaidon Anthony or Alex Dobre, know that I will do anything for them.
“On the pitch I’ll make sure I get across the ground, make a tackle, give the ball to them and get around them whenever I can and I know it is vice-versa, if I need help on a one-on-one, they’ll come back and support me. It’s not just me on the left side, it’s everywhere across the whole pitch, we’re a unit. It’s really exciting.”
The Cherries have secured two wins and a draw from the opening three group games, including beating Forest 1-0 at Vitality Stadium.
“The Premier League Cup, for me, is probably my favourite competition,” Zemura told afcb.co.uk.
“The chance to play at different stadiums is brilliant, we get a few fans coming over to watch us and it’s a nice atmosphere. It is more or less the best players playing against each other so it’s a good competition”
The table-topping Cherries are currently two points ahead of Stoke and three in front of Southampton, with the top two qualifying for the last 16.
Zemura has expressed a desire to consolidate their place at the summit: “We felt the group would be tight when the draw was released, it is a tough group.
“We’ve done really well in the early games, I’m buzzing with the boys and myself personally but from third to first, it’s between everyone so we want to keep cementing our place by winning on Friday night.”