MANAGER Eddie Howe believes Ian Harte has added “a bit of steel” to Cherries and says his experience has been a key ingredient during their impressive recent run.
Harte, who stepped in to replace the injured Charlie Daniels at the end of January, has been instrumental as Cherries have kept four successive clean sheets.
The unflappable Irishman again showed his class and was the pick of the defence as Cherries battled out a 0-0 draw with Championship rivals Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Cultured left-back Harte, 36, who was restricted to eight league and cup appearances during the first six months of the season, made his eighth consecutive start against Boro.
Howe told the Daily Echo: “There are no first choices in any position here and everyone has to earn the right to play and to be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
“What Ian has done has been so impressive because he never moaned when he was out of the team and has let his football do the talking. He hasn’t been a minute’s problem and is a model professional.
“It is a satisfying feeling when you see someone who conducts himself so well off the pitch get his rewards on it and I am really pleased for him.
“He helps us manage games and, at delicate times in certain games, you know he will make the right decisions and advise his team-mates to make the right decisions as well. I don’t think you can put a price on that experience.
“He has played at the very highest level and deservedly so. He is a wily campaigner. He is one of the first ones in the ear of the referee when there is a contentious decision and sometimes you need that. You can’t be too nice and I think he has added a bit of steel to our side.”
Howe also paid tribute to Harte after the defender had sportingly put the ball out of play so Mustapha Carayol could receive treatment following an awkward fall during the closing stages of the contest.
The Gambian winger was attended to by medical staff from both camps before being stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
“It was a measure of the man,” said Howe of Harte’s actions. “Although I was slightly torn at the time, when you reflect after the game, it was a terrific decision and very sportsmanlike. We preach that here so I take my hat off to him for the fact he did it.
“He could have played in Tokelo Rantie and we could have countered but he knew the lad was seriously hurt and I thought it was a rare show of sportsmanship in an age where you don’t see things like that very often so full credit to him.”