EDDIE Howe admits he is scouring the lower leagues in a bid to unearth the next Dele Alli.

Howe’s team will come up against the brilliant Tottenham attacker at White Hart Lane on Saturday – more than four years after the Cherries boss was alerted to Alli’s precocious talent.

The player’s exceptional progress as a teenager at MK Dons saw him coveted by a host of the country’s elite clubs – and propelled him out of the market Howe was operating in, initially with Burnley and then back at Cherries.

Spurs eventually won the race to land Alli in 2015. And Howe believes the 21-year-old’s seamless transition from League One prodigy to England international proves the value of mining for talent beneath the glitzy Premier League surface.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “We certainly do look in the lower leagues for players.

“We would never cut off that market. I wouldn’t ever want to do that, because I know there are players who can make the step up.

“You have to remember, half of our team – maybe more than half of our team – have come from League One and the Championship.

“It can be done. You just need the right player, with the right attitude and the right attributes and that gap can be bridged.

“Dele Alli has proved it can still be done, coming from the lower leagues and working your way up.

“Sometimes, when a player makes that jump it can be a long time before you see him progress in the manner that Dele has – it is a credit to him that he has had the mental strength to believe he belongs at this level, and to then distinguish himself at the level.

“We did look at him but he had gone beyond us quite quickly. We were in the Championship at the time – and we talked about him when I was at Burnley as well.

“There are players we are looking at now – I wouldn’t give you names but we haven’t closed that market off to us.”

While Howe had to resign himself to missing out on capturing Alli, he has closely monitored his development into this country’s great new footballing hope.

Nevertheless, when it comes to shackling Spurs this weekend, the manager has more on his plate than merely stopping the 16-goal star.

“He is quite unique as an Englishman, he is the type of goalscoring midfielder we haven’t seen for a while – maybe since Frank Lampard,” continued Howe.

“He arrives late in the box and scores all manner of goals.

“It is a tremendous thing for the national team to have a player of his ability, at his age and with his temperament.

“But you can’t focus on one individual when you play Tottenham. They have goals from different areas of the team, whether it’s Alli, Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen from the wide positions.

“We have to deal with them, but we have to try to make them aware of our strengths as well.”