BOSS Eddie Howe saluted the service of “incredible” skipper Simon Francis – who yesterday celebrated his 33rd birthday.

The Cherries defender initially signed for the club on loan from Charlton in November 2011 before agreeing a permanent deal three months later.

Francis, one of the key figures in Cherries’ journey from League One to the top flight, has made 25 appearances in all competitions this season.

Howe said: “Simon is one of the players who epitomises our recent rise.

“I think he has been absolutely incredible for the football club and very consistent.

“When we first arrived, he was an out-and-out right-back, a marauding player who got up and down with great athleticism.

“He was technically excellent and, in our Championship season, he was huge in order for us to win the league.

“He is getting in a different stage of his career now, so we have moved him inside and tried to get the best out of him in the middle of the pitch and he has done very well there for us.

“It’s great to have that versatility within our squad and I think he is growing as a captain all the time. I have been really pleased with him.”