EDDIE Howe has praised Elliott Ward for his “professionalism” after the defender worked tirelessly to achieve the Cherries manager’s pre-season aim.
Howe had tasked Ward with being fit to take his place among the Cherries substitutes for their Championship opener at Huddersfield.
The 29-year-old played no part in Cherries’ warm-up friendlies as he continued his recovery from knee surgery over the summer.
Ward went under the knife in May after a problem with his right knee had flared up during Cherries’ 2-2 draw at Ipswich on Easter Monday.
He initially sustained the damage when he collided with an advertising hoarding in a 1-0 home defeat by Leicester at the start of February.
Ward was declared fit for Cherries’ trip to West Yorkshire – where he was unused during their 4-0 win – before he played the full 90 minutes in the League Cup tie at Exeter in midweek.
Howe told the Daily Echo: “Elliott worked very hard to get fit. His aim was to be available for the bench for the first game at Huddersfield and he achieved that with a lot of hard work.
“With no games and no major training sessions behind him, he played 90 minutes at Exeter and looked so accomplished. It was testament to his professionalism.
“It shows he looks after himself. He is a very good professional behind the scenes. He eats the right things and looks after his body. He is very experienced and that is why he is such a valued member of the squad.”