BOSS Eddie Howe felt Cherries had to release Sam Matthews for the sake of his own career.

Howe confirmed Matthews – who joined Cherries when he was 10 – would not be offered fresh terms once his contract at Vitality Stadium had expired at the end of next month.

The Poole-born 21-year-old netted six times in 39 games during a productive loan spell with Eastleigh this season and was voted player of the year and players’ player of the year.

As a teenager, Matthews attracted interest from Manchester United and was fast-tracked to Howe's first-team squad in 2013.

He was rewarded with a long-term contract – initially on scholarship terms – which became a full professional deal on his 17th birthday in March 2014.

Matthews joined Cherries on a pre-season training trip to Switzerland and appeared in first-team friendlies against West Ham and Real Madrid.

But his progress was hampered by injury, including sustaining serious damage to his ankle just minutes into a loan spell stay with Poole Town in September 2014.

Howe told the Daily Echo: "Sam has been here a long time and we had such high hopes for him as a young player and genuinely believed he could play at a very high level.

"He had a number of injuries which made it very difficult for him to progress at the speed that he would have liked and we would have liked.

"He has gone on loan and done very well. We can keep players for as long as we want but there comes a time when you have to let them progress their own career.

"Our scouts have watched him play and have been very impressed but feel that this is the right time to let him go and join another club permanently."

Howe added: "With all young players, you have to work out what their plan will be. You have to ask 'are they going to be good enough to play for us?'

"If they aren't, they are going to have to go and earn a career elsewhere. You can’t keep a player on loan forever, with what purpose?

"That is the situation we have been in with a number of players down the years and there is an absolute wish from us that they go and have the best careers they can.

"It is great to see Jayden Stockley doing so well at Exeter and we take immense satisfaction in how well he is doing, knowing what a great lad he is and was for us and the part he played in our journey.

"We are only too delighted if they go and further their careers and it will be the same with Sam. He will go with very much our best wishes and we hope that he does very well."

Matthews has attracted interest from a host of clubs, including the Championship, League One and League Two.