BOSS Eddie Howe has praised Brett Pitman's work ethic during pre-season and insists the door is still open for the striker to play a “big part” in Cherries' future.

Pitman has netted four times in a fruitful warm-up campaign, his exploits helping Cherries to victories over Dorchester, Eastleigh and Portsmouth.

The Jerseyman was a key figure in the club's rise from the depths of League Two to the Championship, leading the goal charts during their two promotions in 2010 and 2013.

Re-signed by Howe from Bristol City in November 2012, Pitman has plundered more than 100 career goals and is Cherries' fifth highest league marksman.

But while Howe's team enjoyed a memorable season in the Championship, Pitman experienced mixed fortunes as Cherries registered a club-best 10th-placed finish.

The 26-year-old started 11 of their first 18 league games but only one of the next 28 - at Blackpool in March. He scored five times in the Championship and also came off the bench on 22 occasions.

Howe, who had Lewis Grabban spearheading the Cherries attack last season, bolstered his striking resources by signing Yann Kermorgant in January and Callum Wilson last month.

However, despite mounting competition for places, Howe says Pitman is still very much in his plans and has tasked the frontman with giving him a pleasant selection dilemma.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “I think Brett has been excellent in pre-season. His performances have reflected his training where he has put in a tireless shift. He has come back fitter than I have probably seen him in a long time and he really looked after himself over the summer.

“He looks like he has a point to prove and long may that continue. The challenge for Brett is to maintain this form and physical condition because it will give him a really good chance to be involved with us and play a big part in our future.”

Howe added: “Everyone was given an opportunity last season and everyone was given a chance. The platform is their games and, when they get their chances, they have to take them and Brett would fall into that category.

“He is a player I admire and have always admired. He has a great affinity with the club. He has done very well for us in our past and the door is open for him to do well in our future. The rest is down to him.”

Pitman is expected to be given another chance to impress when Cherries continue their pre-season friendly programme with a visit from Swansea City tonight (7.45pm).