BOSS Eddie Howe has described speculation linking Cherries’ prized assets with potential summer moves as both “a compliment and a concern”.
Howe is desperate to keep his squad intact as Cherries look to build on this season’s exploits and mount a challenge for promotion to the Premier League.
But he also knows several players could be targets for top-flight clubs after catching the eye during an impressive campaign in the Championship.
Striker Lewis Grabban and defender Steve Cook have seen their stock rise sharply this season and have both been the subject of rumoured interest.
Grabban, who is set to win the Dean Court golden boot after netting 22 times, was yesterday linked by a national newspaper with a £3m move to former club Crystal Palace.
The 26-year-old south Londoner was rewarded with an improved three-and-a-half year contract by Cherries after rejecting overtures from Brighton in January.
Since then, Grabban, a £300,000 buy from Rotherham in July 2012, has continued his rich vein of form, scoring a further 10 goals in Cherries’ past 21 games.
Cook has starred during his debut season in the second flight and has also been linked with Crystal Palace where former Cherries boss and current Dorset resident Tony Pulis is in charge.
The 23-year-old, a £170,000 signing from Brighton in January 2012, is under contract to Cherries until 2016 having penned an improved three-year deal last summer.
And while Cherries may have tied all their sought-after players to long-term contracts, Howe knows the club could still have to fend off interest during the close season.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Echo, Howe said: “I think it is a compliment, without a doubt. But it is also a concern because you don’t want to lose any of your best players. I have no doubt people will be looking at our players because they have all performed very well.
“By and large, we still have a very young squad so I think it is a possibility we might get bids and we would have to take every one on merit if they were to come in.
“It is not really my call, it is for the people above me to make that call. But I certainly don’t want to sell and I know everybody else will be thinking the same. We want to keep the squad together and add quality to it. That is the aim.”