BOSS Eddie Howe believes cool head Andrew Surman could be a key player for Cherries as the heat intensifies in the race for Championship play-off places.

The Norwich City loan star has been something of an unsung hero as Howe’s men have forced their way into the promotion picture during the past month.

Surman, who helped the Canaries reach the Premier League in 2011, has been a model of consistency in the Cherries engine room during the second half of the season.

He experienced a mixed bag following his summer move from Carrow Road, starting just three of Cherries’ first 17 league games, including the heavy defeats at Watford and Huddersfield.

But since the start of December, the 27-year-old has missed just two of 22 games, his inclusion coinciding with Cherries enjoying a marked upturn in fortunes.

Surman, who made 26 appearances for Cherries in 2005-06 after signing on loan from Southampton, played a starring role for Howe’s team during their March purple patch.

He was the only midfielder to feature in all eight games as Cherries reduced from 14 to five points the gap on the play-offs by claiming six wins and a draw during the month.

Surman, who had been nursing a minor injury, came off the bench to help Cherries maintain their late surge by recording a 4-2 win at Birmingham on Saturday.

Boss Howe told the Daily Echo: “I don’t think you can underestimate his contribution. He has been very good for us. He has played a number of different roles and we have asked a number of different things of him, all of which he has done excellently.

“He is never fazed or flustered. He keeps the ball very well and uses his experience. You can see he has played in the Premier League and he is a top player in my opinion. We are very fortunate to have him and very grateful to Norwich for letting us have him for the season.

“I am really enjoying working with him. He is the ultimate professional and, hopefully, he is enjoying this season with us. I think he has added a lot to our team and squad.

“He typifies our philosophy. We are a footballing team and we like people to be brave and want the ball.

“He does all those things so I can’t speak highly enough of him and he is going to be an important player for us over the closing weeks of the season.”

Surman will be hoping to regain his place when Cherries host QPR on Saturday with Harry Redknapp the man who sanctioned his loan move to Dean Court nine years ago.