Eddie Howe buoyed by progress of injured Jermain Defoe
EDDIE Howe believes Cherries striker Jermain Defoe still has "a little way to go" before he can return to Premier League action.
England star Defoe has been on the sidelines since sustaining a fractured ankle in the Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Chelsea before Christmas.
The 35-year-old was ruled out for eight to 10 weeks following a mistimed lunge by Ethan Ampadu moments into the clash at Stamford Bridge.
But Cherries boss Howe said he had been pleased by the strides taken by Defoe since then.
Howe said: "Jermain is still with the physios and is working on the grass. He's building his fitness levels.
"He's not with the sports science team – there has been no handover to that department.
"I think he still has a little way to go but he's doing very well and we are very pleased with his progress."
Defoe has scored three goals for Cherries since joining from Sunderland last summer.
He opened his account in the Premier League victory over Brighton in September before hitting a double at Crystal Palace at the start of December.
In all competitions, Callum Wilson is Cherries' leading scorer this season, with Ryan Fraser second on five and Defoe, Joshua King and Steve Cook tied for third.