CHERRIES star Max Gradel has spoken of his frustration at a lack of game time and admitted: “I’m at an age where I can’t sit on the bench.”

Gradel has been restricted to just nine substitute appearances in the Premier League in his second season at Vitality Stadium.

The Ivorian winger, a £7million signing from St Etienne in August 2015, saw his first campaign wrecked by a serious knee injury.

He spent six months on the sidelines before making an explosive return and playing a key role as Cherries preserved their Premier League status.

Gradel was rewarded for his efforts in the summer when he penned an improved four-year deal, contracting him to the club until 2020.

And although a minor hamstring complaint kept him out briefly, Gradel has been used sparingly by boss Eddie Howe.

He came off the bench in five of Cherries’ first nine games in the Premier League – and started against Morecambe and Preston in the EFL Cup – but did not feature again in the top flight until replacing Joshua King in the 88th minute of the 1-1 draw against Manchester United at the start of last month.

Gradel has been linked with a host of clubs – including Watford, Burnley, West Ham, Marseille and Nantes – while in a recent interview with French television channel Canal+, he said he may have to consider his future with Cherries.

Speaking exclusively to the Daily Echo, Gradel was asked what the past few months had been like for him and replied: “It has been difficult. I came back from injury and was 100 per cent.

“I have been working hard every day in training. The manager is there to do a job, he is there to pick the players.

“The only thing you can do is keep training as hard as you can. The manager picks the team and you have to make sure that you are ready when he calls you.

“That is the only thing you can do as a player, there is nothing else. You have to be ready to do a job on the pitch.

“I know it is frustrating at times because I am at an age where I can’t sit on the bench, I must play. I know it is frustrating but you have to take it on board and carry on.”

Asked whether he was ready, Gradel replied: “Yes, I am ready. I have been ready for a long time. I have been ready for six or seven months but, as I said, there is nothing I can do.

“I have to keep working hard in training to show the manager that I can do a job for him. He is the one who makes the decisions and you have to get on with it.”