STEVE Cook is vowing to pull out all the stops to keep his place at the heart of the Cherries defence and knows he faces strong competition from some big-game players.

Cook, who today agreed a new three-year contract with the club, grew in stature during Cherries’ promotion campaign – his first full season at Dean Court.

The 22-year-old skippered Cherries in the absence of Tommy Elphick and has been rewarded by boss Eddie Howe with an improved deal following a succession of impressive displays.

And while Cook knows the arrival of experienced duo Elliott Ward and Ian Harte could threaten his place, he says he is determined to give the manager a major selection dilemma.

In an interview with the Daily Echo, Cook said: “We knew we needed quality additions and Elliott Ward and Ian Harte have given us that. They have a wealth of experience at this level and the one above.

“As a young defender, you can only learn from players like them. I was fortunate to play alongside Tommy last season because he helped me a lot. You can’t help but improve when you are surrounded by good players.

“It is going to be a long, hard season in the Championship and some people are going to be disappointed when the manager names the team for the first game. But it is not about individuals, it is about the team and the squad. We want to come together, like we did last season.

“It would be stupid for me to think I might play every game because there are going to be injuries and dips in form. There will be friendly rivalry and fierce competition for places and I am sure we will all get the best out of one another.

“I am gunning for a spot in the team and, if I haven’t deserved it after pre-season then I will have nobody else to blame but myself. There will be no excuses and it is going to be down to me to make sure I don’t give the manager a reason not to play me.”

Cook, who endured a frustrating start to last season during former boss Paul Groves’s ill-fated reign, made one appearance for Brighton in the Championship just days before he signed permanently for Cherries in January 2012.

He added: “I hated every minute of not playing games at the start of last season and don’t want to experience it again.

“I was on the bench a few times for Brighton and had a taste of what the Championship is going to be like. It is full of big clubs and better players. We know it isn’t going to be easy but it is a challenge everyone is ready for and I can’t wait to get going.

“It was a very easy decision for me to sign a new contract and I didn’t have to think twice. It gives me a bit of stability and will take me to when I am 25 but I want to be involved with this club for the foreseeable future.

"Everything is in place here for a young player to go far in the game. I want to play at the highest level possible and, hopefully, that will be with Bournemouth.”