CHERRIES boss Eddie Howe believes Steve Cook has the potential to be a Premier League defender.

Top flight outfits Crystal Palace, QPR and Burnley were among a string of suitors to be linked with a move for the centre-back before he signed a new three-year contract on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old is now tied to the Dean Court club until 2017 and Howe is confident the best is yet to come from the former Brighton man.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “Cookie should aim for the very highest level in the game.

“I think there’s so much more scope for him to improve. He’s got all the attributes – he’s a very good footballer, he’s athletic, he reads the game well and I think with more experience he can really flourish.

“There were a lot of rumours about his future without any substance and I’m pleased to tie him to the club and for him to commit his future to us. He’s a big part of our future plans.”

Cook made 40 appearances as part of the Cherries side that achieved a record second-tier finish in 2013-14.

He formed a solid partnership with skipper Tommy Elphick and was an ever-present in March as Cherries kept five clean sheets in eight games.

Howe continued: “I thought Cookie had a very good season last year, his first year in the Championship. Centre-half is probably the most difficult position to play for young players and I thought he excelled.

“I’m sure if he carries on in the same vein of form then he’s got a very good career in front of him, and who knows where it could take him?”