ACADEMY graduate Andrew Surman explained that his "strong connection" to Saints is what drew him back to the club as an Under-18s coach.

Having hung up his boots in 2021, the 37 year old returned to football in January 2023, joining the Cherries coaching staff after a conversation with assistant technical director Simon Francis.

A little over 12 months later, the Southampton academy graduate, who played 146 games for the club, has returned to take up a role as the Under-18s assistant coach.

Surman also previously played alongside Russell Martin at Norwich City, before being managed by the current Saints boss at MK Dons.

Speaking to the Southern Daily Echo's sister publication the Bournemouth Daily Echo, Surman explained: “I’ve always had a really strong connection with Southampton.

“I’ve supported them since I was young, came through their academy and played there.

Daily Echo: Andrew Surman scored 18 goals in the Championship for Saints.Andrew Surman scored 18 goals in the Championship for Saints. (Image: Daily Echo)

“I’ve always had a good relationship with the club and my two boys still go and watch Southampton play, they’ve both got season tickets.

“I’ve got a strong affiliation with the club. Obviously with Russell being there as well, having played with him and played for him, there’s a strong connection there.

“But I felt what he is doing there is exciting. Geographically it helps, because it’s a lot closer, I live in Southampton. It just ticked a lot of boxes for me.

“But with the project they’re starting now, I think it sounded really good. It was just an opportunity I felt was a good one for me.

“But I was really happy at Bournemouth, so it is bittersweet really, because I really enjoyed my time.

“There was nothing I wasn’t happy with at Bournemouth. But I think it was just an opportunity that came up at the right time for me and hopefully it will all work out well.”