BOSS Eddie Howe vowed to give Wes Thomas a chance to resurrect his Cherries career after issuing a hands-off warning to the striker’s admirers.
Manager Howe insisted he had no intention of allowing the frontman to leave amid rumours of renewed interest from neighbours Portsmouth.
Thomas was handed his first Cherries appearance since a loan spell with Pompey as a substitute in the 1-0 victory at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
Howe hinted that the 25-year-old had a number of fans among Cherries’ League One rivals but insisted he would not be leaving Dorset.
Thomas stated in yesterday’s Daily Echo that he was hoping to show what he could do in a fresh start under Howe. And the Cherries boss is urging Thomas to stake a claim for a long-term future at Goldsands Stadium after pledging to hand him his opportunity.
Howe told the Daily Echo: “He is quick, he is decent in the air and he has certainly got mobility and will stretch defenders and back fours.
“And he can score goals. He has scored goals for Portsmouth this season and when he first came here, I think his record was nearly one in two.
“That is not a bad record to have at any level and he has got a lot of admirers up and down the division, so we are pleased to have him with us.
“He won’t be going anywhere else, I want to make that clear. He is here to fight for his place with us and, hopefully, he will take that.”
Thomas revived Cherries’ fortunes last season by firing 10 goals in his first 20 appearances for the Dorset club.
After that, he struggled to hit the net and was loaned to Portsmouth earlier this season by ex-boss Paul Groves.
But Thomas says his confidence has been restored by a productive loan spell with Cherries’ League One rivals and Howe has been impressed by the former Crawley Town frontman since bringing him back to Dorset.
Howe said: “He certainly gave us a physical presence up front (against Doncaster) and he has got pace to burn, and those are attributes I really like.
“I think he is going to be definitely part of our squad going forward and he will be given an opportunity to stake a claim for a long-term future here. Then, it is very much dependent on how he performs.”
Howe added: “It really does add to a nice mix we have here with the lads that played on Saturday, and Matt Tubbs, Steve Fletcher and Frank Demouge. We are spoiled for choice in that department so it is a good problem to have.
“He (Thomas) does have a physical presence but he also has pace.
“Being a defender myself, I didn’t like to play against either of those type of players.
“Every player we have in the squad, in terms of the centre-forward department, is slightly different, which is great from my perspective.
“We haven’t seen Frank yet and we like his qualities as well. It is just a case of trying to manage the squad and give everyone a fair chance.”