Sylvain Distin is relishing a return to Fratton Park when AFC Bournemouth visit his former club Portsmouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Veteran centre-back Distin spent two years at Portsmouth between 2007 and 2009, helping the club to a famous FA Cup victory in the 2008 final against Cardiff City.
Distin was then sold to Everton as financial turmoil engulfed the club.
Since his time at Fratton Park, the contrast in fortunes between south-coast rivals Portsmouth and Bournemouth has been vast.
While Pompey plummeted from the Premier League to League Two in just three years, the Cherries rocketed up from the fourth tier to the top flight in five years – the clubs crossing paths in League One in the 2012-13 season.
And for Distin, 38, the chance to renew acquaintances is exciting.
“At the start of your career you don’t really realise it is going to end at some point and you just play game after game,” he told The News.
“So being able to come back to a place where I had such a good time and good memories is fantastic.
“I never had the chance to say goodbye to the fans, how I left happened really, really fast.
“I was about to sign a contract, then the following day was asked to leave because the club needed the money.”
Bournemouth under manager Eddie Howe have proved no pushovers in their maiden Premier League season – they are four points clear of the relegation zone in 16th place after 23 matches.
Portsmouth boss Paul Cook is fully aware of the challenge his side will face, but is looking forward to the underdogs pitting their wits against top-flight opposition.
“I just think it’s a great occasion. The build-up builds slowly from Friday then into the expectancy of a Premier League club coming to Fratton Park,” he said.
“From days gone by this was a normal fixture for us but it isn’t [any] more. It’s a game we’re looking forward to and one we want to win.
“The reality of … playing a strong team [is] if they turn up and play well, then we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to it.”
Cook’s men are fifth in League Two, having lost 1-0 to promotion rivals Oxford United last weekend.
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