“I WAS a bit nervous heading up to it because I was young, playing in the Bournemouth first team against AC Milan – it could’ve gone wrong!”

Prestige friendlies rarely get bigger than the Rossoneri of AC Milan.

Lining up for Bournemouth, Ollie Harfield patrolled full-back against the likes of Italy defender Ignazio Abate, former Liverpool midfielder Suso and Senegal striker M’Baye Niang.

Fans could have forgiven Harfield, who now plays at Weymouth, for feeling a few pre-match butterflies against the San Siro giants.

But it turns out those nerves held him in good stead as he went on to complete 80 minutes in a formative experience for his footballing career, despite losing 2-1.

“I’m not actually good with footballing names,” Harfield confessed.

“But there were people like Niang playing. I actually played quite well, which surprised me.

“I was a bit nervous heading up to it because I was young, playing in the Bournemouth first team against AC Milan – it could’ve gone wrong!

“It was a great experience, all the experiences do help you along the way.”

Signing his first professional contract with the Cherries aged just 17, Harfield then enjoyed considerable experience at Boreham Wood.

Seeking to reach the Football League, the Wood faced Tranmere Rovers in the 2018 National League play-off final at Wembley in front of over 16,000 fans.

While Harfield was an unused substitute that day, he watched on as Wood lost 2-1 to their Wirral counterparts – despite Rovers’ Liam Ridehalgh seeing red in the first minute.

“It was really good to be around it all,” Harfield said.

“It was an amazing experience to have under my belt. Turning up on the coach, walking through, seeing the Wembley arch.

“You’re not going there to sit in the stands, you’re going out on the pitch – that was the best experience of the day.

“We lost 2-1 and they went down to 10 men in the first 30 seconds. Just being there and around it, that was the main thing.

“It’s all part and parcel of football, you play in some really good stadiums. At the end of the day, it’s just a bit of grass where you play football.

“It doesn’t make a massive difference. Obviously it’s nice to play in the bigger stadiums but football is football, wherever you’re playing.”

From Boreham Wood, former Southampton academy prospect Harfield decided to exit Bournemouth in search of more match minutes at Dagenham and Redbridge.

His reward was 29 games for the Daggers, complete with one goal.

“It came to the end of the season and my contract at Bournemouth was up,” Harfield recalled.

“We all felt I needed to go out and get first-team games, so I left and went to Dagenham, which was a really good experience.

“I played well at Dagenham and enjoyed it.”

Harfield impressed at National League level and was offered a new deal on the Daggers’ retained list.

However, he decided to move back to the south coast, where Weymouth snapped him up.

“I wanted to move closer to home, so that’s when Weymouth came up and it went from there,” he said.

“The main thing was I did miss home a little bit. I was in London and it was my second year there because I was at Bournemouth the year before.

“I always speak to Moles (Mark Molesley, ex-Terras’ boss) because he was my manager at Bournemouth. We stayed in contact and he messaged me towards the end of (last) season – it went from there.

“Then, it was perfect, I could move home. I knew a lot of the boys at Weymouth because a lot of them are obviously ex-Bournemouth. It all made sense, really.”

With 40 starts and 10 assists to his name as Weymouth sealed promotion to the Vanarama National League, Harfield played a key role.

Sharing a pitch with AC Milan four years ago might well have played a part, but perhaps more importantly he shared it with three future Terras.

Corey Jordan, Jake McCarthy and ex-Weymouth left-back Callum Buckley all took to the field that day.

And as Bournemouth’s rise to the top flight occurred, the Cherries’ loss was Weymouth’s gain.

“Bournemouth getting to the Premier League was so good for the club but it killed a lot of the young players because the gap (in standard) was so big,” Harfield said.

Exiting Bournemouth might have been a blessing in disguise not just for Harfield, but his fellow former Cherries at Weymouth and, of course, the Terras as a whole.

Things did not go wrong, after all.

Dorset Echo

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