RISING star Jack Simpson revealed a positional switch had helped him flourish in the first-team ranks at AFC Bournemouth.

The former Weymouth Youth starlet capped a dream debut by bagging the Cherries’ opener in the 3-1 win over Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old had only discovered he would be starting on the morning of the match and turned in an outstanding individual display as the Cherries reached the quarter-finals for the second time in their history.

South London-born Simpson, who was raised in Weymouth, also had a hand in the Cherries’ second goal when he was fouled for a penalty which Callum Wilson slotted home.

Schooled at Wey Valley, Simpson first joined the Cherries when he was 12 before earning a two-year scholarship as a 16-year-old.

His rich potential saw him fast-tracked to Eddie Howe’s squad at 18 and he has been training with the first team for the past two years.

Having spent his formative years as a midfielder, Howe and his staff converted Simpson to central defence – a move which has paid handsome dividends.

“I have only been playing there for the past couple of years,” said Simpson, who had among the crowd father and mother Paul and Sarah, together with brother and sister George and Ella.

“I’m not sure where it came from originally but I think a few people thought it would be better for me.

“I have worked mainly under the gaffer on it, especially in my first year with the first team.

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“We worked on where to be positionally and dealing with certain situations.

“It has been a whirlwind two years in getting to learn a new position and become a defender but I have enjoyed it and that’s my position now.”

Like Howe on his debut for Cherries in 1995, Simpson was deservedly named man of the match by the sponsors.

He added: “I found out I would be playing in the morning when we did a tactical walk-through.

“I was over the moon but tried to stay relaxed and focused because I knew it was an important game.

“It was brilliant to get a goal and have an influence on the second one to win the penalty but winning was the most important thing.

“It was unbelievable when I scored and there is probably no better feeling.

“I wasn’t really sure what to do!

“You always have to be ready because you never know what is going to come. Football is a weird game and, thankfully, I was ready.

“I am just trying to take each game as it comes and trying to push in training and get as close as I can.

“I don’t think I did myself any harm against Middlesbrough but the most important thing was the win and progressing to the quarter-finals. Overall, it was a great night.”

Former Terras’ coach Tim Davis, who coached the youngster before he was snapped up by the Cherries, said: “I made him my captain – we played under-9s and we won everything.

“We played under-10s and we won everything that was going again. Then Bournemouth came in when he was an under-11 and he has been progressing through ever since.”