MANAGER Eddie Howe has hinted at the possibility of further strengthening his squad in a bid to fortify Cherries for the first-half of the season.

Howe bolstered his resources with the permanent signing of midfielder Andrew Surman ahead of the closing of the summer transfer window on Monday.

Surman, who enjoyed a fruitful loan stay with Cherries last season, became Howe’s fourth addition following the arrivals of Dan Gosling, Junior Stanislas and Callum Wilson.

Clubs are not permitted to make any permanent signings until the window reopens in January – with the exception of free agents – although emergency loans can be conducted from next week.

And while Howe expressed his delight at managing to keep his squad intact, he also said Surman’s signing had provided Cherries with a timely boost to their midfield options.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Echo, Howe said: “We are flexible with our system and, sometimes, we play with a two or a three in midfield.

“Shaun MacDonald is currently out injured and, if you looked at our midfield against Norwich on Saturday, we only had three recognised central midfielders.

“If we had picked up one more injury, we wouldn’t have been able to play the system we wanted to so we have to make sure we have the numbers we need and Andrew’s signing has certainly helped.”

Cherries last month managed to ward off interest from Derby in defender Simon Francis, while the Rams were also linked with winger Matt Ritchie ahead of the deadline – a rumour Howe dismissed by confirming no bids had been received for any of his players.

Asked whether he had been surprised at the absence of any offers, Howe replied: “Possibly, but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to have encouraged any. We move forward with the squad intact and, hopefully, we will be able to strengthen it to take us in the direction we would like to go.

“I was really pleased because we certainly wanted to keep everyone together. The squad isn’t huge in number and bringing in Andrew has given us 19 fit first-team outfield players.”

Asked whether he anticipated any players going out once the loan window had reopened, Howe replied: “It is something we will look at it. We still have a couple of injuries so will need to see what options we have.

“I would be very keen to try to keep everyone together. But I also need to think about the demands of each individual player, especially those who haven’t played as much, and see what they want to do so we will play it by ear.”

  • Cherries’ development squad are today due to host their Brighton counterparts at Hamworthy Club on Magna Road (1pm).