EDDIE Howe admitted it pained him to see Matt Ritchie starring for Newcastle United and revealed how Cherries had been "powerless" to prevent the winger's big-money move.

Ritchie arrived at Cherries from Swindon Town in January 2013 and played a crucial role in helping the Dorset outfit earn promotion to the Championship and then the Premier League.

Again a key player in the club's inaugural top-flight season in 2015-16, the Scotland international elected to move to relegated Newcastle for a reported £12million at the end of the campaign.

And with the Magpies now back in the Premier League having won the Championship last season, Ritchie is due to face his former side for the first time at St James' Park tomorrow (3pm).

Reflecting on the wide man's impact at Cherries, boss Howe told the Daily Echo: "First and foremost, what a person and what a character. He has such a drive to win and achieve and has a very infectious energy.

"That's without talking about the player and his left foot and the quality he has. He was magnificent for us for a long period of time and I think we should always remember those players very fondly.

"He trained how he played and I think that's always a tough ask for that type of player because he is all-action. That came down to his attitude – his will to win was second to none.

"It pains me to see him doing so well for Newcastle because he did so well for us but on a personal level, I'm delighted for him."

Howe admitted it would have been unfair for Cherries to stand in Ritchie's way when the Magpies came calling.

"It was a difficult situation because it was someone who had done so well for us over a long period of time," said Howe.

"He had been the ultimate professional and felt he had a life-changing opportunity. We had a great relationship. It would have been very difficult, in our situation, to stand in the player's way when that was his wish for him and his family.

"Also, Newcastle were prepared to back that up with the money involved. I don't think you can keep players that are really desperate to go and when there is a transfer fee involved as well, we were powerless to stop him in the end."

Asked if Cherries could have made it to the Premier League without Ritchie, Howe added: "It's very difficult to answer that one.

"The team we created in the Championship was very special. All elements of the team needed to work and Matt was a huge part of the right-hand side functioning so well.

"We were a team made better by our partnerships, it wasn't the individuals being the standout performers, it was the team-mate next to you inspiring you to play better.

"With Matt and Simon Francis down the right-hand side and Charlie Daniels and Marc Pugh down the other side, they were formidable partnerships. It's a very difficult thing to recreate."