EDDIE Howe believes youngster Jack Simpson has earned his stripes as part of Cherries’ first-team set-up.

The Cherries boss did not rule out the possibility of the central defender making his second senior appearance in the Carabao Cup quarter-final at Chelsea tomorrow (7.45pm).

Simpson capped a dream debut by bagging the opener during the 3-1 win over Middlesbrough in the previous round.

Having trained with the club’s first team for the past two years, the 20-year-old was given a huge boost by his bow at Vitality Stadium, according to Howe.

The boss told the Daily Echo: “It was a big night for him and since that day we have seen him grow. In terms of his place in the squad, I think he feels more assured and part of the group.

“The other players see him as part of the group as well, which is important.

“You can be in a squad and train with players every day but you need to feel you can make an impact on the pitch, which is the all-important thing. That game was evidence for Jack that he can compete.

“You need to feel the belief from your team-mates and feel you are level and competing with them, which Jack certainly is.

“From my side I don’t look at him differently to any other member of my squad. If he showed he was better than someone else, he would play.

“It is up to him to use the experiences he has to try to make the most of his talent.”

Schooled at Wey Valley, Simpson first joined Cherries when he was 12 before earning a two-year scholarship as a 16-year-old. His rich potential saw him fast-tracked to Howe’s squad at 18.

With Cherries’ defensive options stretched following injuries to Charlie Daniels, Tyrone Mings and Brad Smith, Simpson may step forward when the Dorset club head to Stamford Bridge.

He could lock horns with the likes of multimillion-pound attackers Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi, Pedro and Eden Hazard.

But regardless of whether the youngster is set to feature against Antonio Conte’s men, Howe insisted the club as a whole should be praised for his development.

“Everyone should be very proud of his progress and the player he has turned into,” he added. “It is incredibly difficult to get a player through at this level.

“There is a point where just being around the games can be an eye opener for him. He is sampling the atmosphere and everything the Premier League brings.

“Jack still has to prove he can compete at this standard but I would say, at the moment, he has the attributes to do it.

“If he were able to get on to the pitch it would be a great moment for him and his family and a real test at the very highest level.”