MANAGER Eddie Howe says uncertainty over Cherries’ on-pitch destiny has had little bearing on his squad-strengthening plans for next season.

Howe wants to keep together the core of his existing playing staff, irrespective of whether Cherries are competing in the Championship or the Premier League.

An upturn in fortunes during the second half of the season has seen Cherries force their way into the play-off picture – with tomorrow’s trip to Ipswich likely to go a long way to determining their fate.

However, with the nucleus of his first-team squad already tied to long-term contracts, Howe can devote his time in the close season to weighing up possible transfer targets.

With Ian Harte agreeing a new 12-month deal at the end of last week, just four players – Richard Hughes, Darryl Flahavan, Shwan Jalal and Stephen Purches – are out of contract at the end of this season.

Asked by the Daily Echo whether the uncertainty had affected his planning, Howe said: “It hasn’t affected anything I have done because we have had a relatively small squad of players to choose from.

“We have been training regularly with 18, 19 or 20 players and, with several out on loan, we have trimmed the squad so regardless of which division we are in, I would want that core group of players with us next season. Nothing has affected any decisions on contracts and other things but transfer targets may change.

“I want to keep together the squad because, from my perspective, I am very happy with it. I am happy with the balance and the attitude of the squad so I won’t be looking to make too many changes.

“I also want to try to keep the feeling in the group the same so think a lack of change would be a good thing. You would like to add one or two bits of quality to potentially make it even stronger for next season.

“But I have always been a firm believer in trying to maximise the squad you have rather than recruit from outside of it. Sometimes you can be very quick to move into the transfer market and bring in a whole host of players and then find you haven’t improved your squad at all.

“I really do believe in the group we have here and it is our job to try to improve those players to make sure they progress with us. If not, then of course you would look to recruit from outside but it is certainly not in my nature to go out and bring in too many.”