BOSS Eddie Howe backed Lee Camp to become the cornerstone of Cherries’ defence after snapping up the former loan star on a two-and-a-half year contract.

The expiry of Camp’s short-term deal at parent club West Bromwich Albion coincided with the end of his two-month stint at Dean Court with the 29-year-old becoming a free agent after starring in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Brighton.

It is understood negotiations had been ongoing for the past few weeks over the prospect of a permanent switch to Dorset, while Championship rivals Blackburn Rovers are believed to have been tracking the experienced custodian.

But with the vultures circling round the in-form stopper, Cherries acted fast to tie down the Northern Ireland international with the manager citing how quickly Camp settled into his squad as an important factor for both parties.

Howe said: “We were really pleased he (Camp) decided to commit his future to us. He kept goal very well and with the style of play we deploy, the goalkeeper’s distribution is crucial. I think he has helped us in that respect.

“I have said many times what he contributes to the team and the fact that he is now with us for a sustained period of time means we can build for the future in terms of our defence. It’s great knowing you have got a settled back four.

“I got the sense he saw himself as part of our team and I think that was crucial. You could see that in his attitude to the games. He was desperate for us to win and keep clean sheets, all the things you want a good goalkeeper to do.

“His general demeanour, the way he conducts himself, the way he has dedicated himself in his training sessions has been very impressive and it was pretty clear we had to make every effort to sign him.

“Other clubs were aware of how well he was doing, had been to watch him and a good goalkeeper on a free transfer at Lee’s age is going to court attention, so I am delighted he chose us.

“The fact he has signed the contract now means he has committed to us and can hopefully grow with us as well.”

However, as swift as Camp's signing was, it did not beat yesterday's noon registration deadline for today's FA Cup tie with Burton Albion (3pm). 

Meanwhile, Howe, who has already acknowledged some of his fringe players could leave on permanent or loan deals during the January transfer window, admitted his quest to strengthen the squad would continue.

On the prospect of more arrivals, he added: “We are looking and I have said before that we will do what we feel we need to do.

“But we are on a good run of form and I think it is important that we acknowledge how good the players are that we have here already.”