Matt Ritchie scores for Swindon against Gillingham in League Two last season...

MANAGER Eddie Howe has hailed as “another statement of intent” Cherries’ capture of sought-after Swindon Town winger Matt Ritchie.

The 23-year-old, who was being tracked by a host of Championship clubs, this evening pledged his future to Cherries when he signed a three-and-a-half year deal at Dean Court.

He joined Cherries for a fee in the region of £500,000 and became Howe’s fourth addition of the transfer window, following the arrivals of Brett Pitman, Ryan Allsop and Ryan Fraser.

The move – revealed exclusively today on the Daily Echo’s Twitter feed – ended Cherries’ lengthy pursuit of the gifted playmaker, which had started some 14 months ago.

Ritchie, who first came to Howe’s attention when he had a trial with Cherries in 2008, had been the subject of a number of failed bids by the Dorset club.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Howe said: “I have known Matt for a number of years and was first made aware of him when came in on trial with Joel Ward. They were both young lads just starting to come through at Portsmouth.

“Matt is a talented player and very good technically. He did really well during a loan spell at Dagenham and ended up getting a move to Swindon. From there, he has really flourished and done ever so well. He is regarded as one of the best players in League One and his signing is a real coup for the club. It is also another statement of intent.

“He is a goalscorer and has scored nine times this season. He is also a goal creator and a set-piece specialist. He can play a number of positions, including all across midfield, and can also cover at left-back in an emergency, which is another string to his bow and something we need.

“For various reasons, his age is very important to us and he will only get better with us. His attitude is probably his stand-out quality. He wants to do well, he is very conscientious and keen to learn and improve. Those are all the hallmarks we look for in a player.”

Ritchie, who was also a target for Crystal Palace, Charlton, Bolton and Bristol City, has this season enhanced his growing reputation, his nine goals and nine assists helping Swindon sustain a promotion bid.

Gosport-born Ritchie, who progressed through the ranks at local club Portsmouth, also played a starring role last season for the Robins and was named League Two’s player of the year as they romped to the title.

He is expected to go straight into the Cherries squad for Saturday’s trip to MK Dons and his arrival will certainly spice up competition for places with Marc Pugh, Josh McQuoid, Wes Fogden, Donal McDermott and new boy Fraser all able to operate as wingers.

“We have strength in depth,” added Howe. “Matt’s signing gives us real competition for places and flexibility.”

Meanwhile, Howe said he anticipated no further incoming activity ahead of the closing of the transfer window at 11pm tomorrow.