EDDIE Howe has described playing for Cherries as "an honour and a privilege" and admits he "wouldn't change anything - bar the injuries".

The popular Cherries defender yesterday announced his retirement after failing to fully recover from a persistent knee injury.

Howe has been forced to call it a day, aged just 29.

He told the Daily Echo: "I really enjoyed my career and really enjoyed playing with some great players and made some great friends along the way.

"I enjoyed playing for this club a great deal. Everyone knows it was the team I watched when I was younger and I loved playing under all the managers I played under.

"Making my debut against Hull in 1995 was a big high in my career. For someone who wanted it so badly, it was a fantastic day. I thought I might play once and never again so all the games were a bonus for me.

"To get a bit of recognition for my country when I played for England under-21s was a dream come true. I couldn't quite believe it at the time but, looking back now, I'm really proud I managed to do that.

"Playing at Wembley sticks in the mind as one of the biggest games I played. Unfortunately, the result wasn't good but I'm sure it's a day everyone looks back on with great fondness."

Howe left Cherries in a £400,000 move to Portsmouth in March 2002 and sustained a serious knee injury in only his second appearance for the Fratton Park outfit before returning to Dean Court for a second spell in November 2004.

"I had mixed emotions about joining Portsmouth at the time," he recalls. "I remember having regrets at the timing because we were close to relegation at the time. I was in two minds about what to do but felt it was a great opportunity for me.

"I was doing pretty well on my debut. I felt I was having a good game until I had to come off and then I did the big injury on the opening day of the following season. Some things are meant to be and that was how it went for me.

"After coming back to Bournemouth, the Carling Cup game at Blackburn stands out as one of my favourite memories. I felt I had played well and then to score the last penalty capped a great day.

"The supporters will always have a special place in my heart. I would really like to thank them for all their support down the years. When a player feels the supporters are right behind him, it can really give them a lift, as it did with me."

Howe, who was promoted to the position of player-coach in December, is expected to remain on Kevin Bond's backroom staff. However, despite being tipped as a future Cherries manager, Howe knows he has a lot to learn.

"You never know what the future holds but, at the moment, I'm very much enjoying my role. It's something totally different to playing. I miss playing but the next best thing is coaching. I love talking football, talking about players and love watching games. It's definitely the right job for me.

"I've still got to get all the qualifications. I did my UEFA B licence in the summer and that went well but it will take a year to get the qualification. Then, I'll move on to the next stage and gradually go through them.

"Who knows whether I will go into management? I'm the same as I was when I was a player. I'm ambitious, I want to progress and want to feel like I'm improving. Whatever happens, will happen.

"I've got a lot to learn. I've got to learn the ropes and learn about everything behind the scenes. But it's all great experience that I'm getting under Kevin and Rob. I'm enjoying it immensely and couldn't have too many better people to learn from.

"Management isn't something I'm thinking about at the moment. I'm thinking about trying to help Kevin and Rob get us off to a good start next season. One of my priorities is the reserves and I'll be trying to help the young lads improve."