IF any aspiring footballers want to know how a model professional conducts himself, they need look no further than Stephen Purches.
Aged 40 and one of the Football League’s most experienced players, Fletcher has seen plenty of colleagues and counterparts down the years.
But he believes Cherries stalwart Purches takes some beating – both for his versatility on the pitch and his diligence and good demeanour off it.
A dependable and talented utility player, Purches has made more than 300 appearances during 10 seasons at Dean Court over two spells.
And Fletcher insists the fans’ favourite is a fully deserving recipient of the testimonial accolade given to him by Cherries.
“Purchy is one of my best friends in football and I love him to bits,” Fletcher told the Daily Echo.
“He has been a great ambassador for this football club over two spells.
“He is the type of player that is any manager’s dream. He doesn’t complain about anything and he gets on with everything.
“It doesn’t matter if you ask him to play left-back, right-back, central midfield, wide right – he has played in many positions – and he is probably the most versatile player we have still got at the football club. Sean O’Driscoll used to use him almost as a man-to-man marker in midfield.”
Cherries boss Howe has tasked Purches with setting an example to the club’s up-and-coming players as he continues his recovery from a broken leg.
And Fletcher says the 32-year-old is the ideal man to provide an insight into how youngsters should carry themselves.
Fletcher, Cherries’ record appearance-maker, added: “He is a great lad to have around the place with his experience.
“He always says and does the right things.
“If I could say to somebody ‘look, there is a good professional to try to emulate’, then I would say to look no further than Stephen Purches.”
Purches’s testimonial year, which begins in the summer of 2013, is set to include a home pre-season friendly, likely to be against Premier League opposition, as well as a sportsman’s dinner and golf day.