CHIEF executive Neill Blake believes Matt Ritchie’s decision to commit his long-term future to Cherries is a sign of the club’s ambition.

Ritchie, one of Cherries’ star performers this season, has been rewarded with an improved three-and-a-half year contract and penned his new deal ahead of today’s showdown with Norwich.

The 25-year-old has been the subject of speculation during the transfer window, with Cherries’ Championship rivals Fulham linked with a £3million move for the skilful winger.

And with Birmingham claiming Cherries have tabled bids for their highly-rated wide man Demarai Gray, some supporters feared Ritchie could have been on his way.

However, this move by the Dorset club will scotch any further talk of Ritchie leaving with Blake insisting all of Cherries’ prized assets will be staying put.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Echo in the past few minutes, Blake said: “Once we had discussed a new contract with Matt, he didn’t take long to make his decision and that spoke volumes to us about him. He clearly sees what we are trying to achieve here and wants to be part of it. Matt has been integral to our success ever since he joined us.

“The manager has moulded an excellent and exciting squad, which is possibly the strongest in the club’s history, and we have seen the fruits of that over the past couple of years. Everybody here is determined to keep progressing to take the club forward.

“It has been said many times already that we are no longer a selling club and the days of seeing our best players leave are long gone. The manager and his staff work tirelessly on improving the players and keeping our squad intact should send out a message about how times have changed here.”

Ritchie, who tops the goal assists chart in the Championship, was one of boss Eddie Howe’s first signings in his second spell at Dean Court and joined Cherries in a £500,000 move from Swindon two years ago.

He first came to Howe’s attention when he had a trial with Cherries in 2008 and former bosses Lee Bradbury and Paul Groves both made unsuccessful attempts to bring him to Dean Court.

Gosport-born Ritchie left Portsmouth for Swindon and was crowned League Two player of the year and named in the divisional team of the season as the Robins won promotion in 2011-12.

He played a key role in helping Cherries reach the Championship the following season, netting three times in 17 appearances, and was voted League One player of the year and named in the PFA team of the season in 2012-13, his award double also recognising his achievements with Swindon.

Ritchie has been ever present in the league for Cherries this season, netting six times and providing no fewer than 11 assists, to play a key role in Howe’s men maintaining their challenge for honours.