SAM Matthews, the big winner at Eastleigh's end-of-season awards, is ready to open a new chapter of his career.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who is due to leave his parent club AFC Bournemouth when his contract expires on July 1, is heading for Bristol Rovers in League One.

Loanee Matthews was a huge hit for Eastleigh in the National League last term, walking away with the player-of-the-season award and the players' player prize.

Darrell Clarke, boss of Bristol Rovers, is a big admirer of the silky-skilled midfielder who has spent 11 years at Dean Court.

Clarke told the club website: “Sam is a very talented young player whose progress I have monitored for a while now.

“He has worked hard and learnt a great deal from his time at Bournemouth and during his loan spell at Eastleigh in the National League last season.

“We had to compete with a number of other clubs for his signature and I am delighted that he has chosen to join us.

“His arrival will intensify competition for first-team places at the club and I look forward to working with him.”

Matthews, who joined Cherries when he was 10, netted six times in 39 games during a productive spell with Eastleigh last season, signing off with a hat-trick at Solihull Moors.

The Spitfires would love to have kept him but, in their heart of hearts, they knew he was destined to go higher.

As a teenager, Matthews attracted interest from Manchester United and was fast-tracked to Howe's first-team squad in 2013.

He was rewarded with a long-term contract – initially on scholarship terms – which became a full professional deal on his 17th birthday in March 2014.

Matthews joined Cherries on a pre-season training trip to Switzerland and appeared in first-team friendlies against West Ham and Real Madrid.

But his progress was hampered by injury, including sustaining serious damage to his ankle just minutes into a loan spell stay with Poole Town in September 2014.

Matthews told the Rovers website: "I was on loan at Eastleigh last season and played quite a lot of games in the National League and then had some interest from other clubs, Rovers being one of them.

"I met with Darrell Clarke over the summer, had a chat and, as things progressed, it's resulted in me signing today and I'm really happy to get it done.

"He told me about the club itself, the squad he has here and told me there's great spirit amongst the players."