BOSS Eddie Howe knows he is facing a delicate financial balancing act as Cherries prepare for a third successive season in the Premier League.

Howe has masterminded keeping Cherries in the top flight for two years operating with one of the smallest budgets in the division.

In what proved a successful attempt to compete with the country’s elite clubs this season, Cherries’ wage bill climbed £30.4m to around £60m – still the second lowest.

The figure included Premier League retention bonuses, which the club will again be obliged to meet having preserved their status for a third year.

Since securing their place at the top table, Howe has continued to express a desire to keep moving the club forward, both on and off the pitch.

Inevitably, to achieve his aim of further progression, Howe will almost certainly look to bolster his squad – with a number of high-profile players having already been linked with the club.

The Daily Mirror recently claimed Cherries would try to tempt both Chelsea defender John Terry and Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe to Vitality Stadium with “mega-money deals”.

It was reported Terry had been offered a two-year contract worth around £130,000-a-week plus a huge signing-on fee. Both players are available on free transfers, although Terry this week said he could retire at the end of the season.

Howe, who never comments on speculation, was asked by the Daily Echo whether an increase in the wage bill would be a necessity if Cherries were to look to push on in the top flight.

He said: “I think it goes with the territory. If you look at any club which has been in the Premier League for a number of years, their wage bill falls in line with most others.

“There is only one way our wages are going to go while we stay in the Premier League and that is up. We are well aware of that as a football club but then managing it will be key.

“We have always believed in parity of wages and trying to keep a balance in terms of the wage bill. It goes without saying you want a harmonious dressing room and everyone fighting to achieve the same goal.

“It does get more difficult and is a delicate balance between how much you want to be ambitious, how much you want to move the club on and who you can attract and recruit to make you better. We have to try to get those decisions right.”

Howe added: “In your first year in the Premier League, your players are challenged to say “can you play at this level?”

“In the second year, some of them have proved they can play in the Premier League and, in the third, hopefully some of them will say they are excelling in the league.

“Every year, their wages will have to reflect where they are compared with players at other clubs.

“Parity does become a little more difficult in the Premier League.

“But I believe we can handle that in the right way and keeping a similar philosophy on wages will continue to serve us well."