RETURNING Junior Stanislas is physically better than ever, according to Cherries defender Steve Cook.

The 28-year-old winger has been out for six months having suffered a serious knee injury during Cherries’ 2-2 draw at Watford in March.

Stanislas damaged the anterior ligaments in his left knee and days later went under the knife to repair the problem.

It brought to a premature end an injury-interrupted campaign described by Stanislas as his “most frustrating”, given he had also been troubled by hamstring and groin issues.

The former Burnley ace is tomorrow set to feature for Cherries under-21s when they host National League Eastleigh in the Hampshire Senior Cup second round at Vitality Stadium (7.45pm).

And centre-half Cook is excited to see Stanislas add to the Dorset club’s “frightening” attacking options, having seen him top the charts in a maximal test during the international break.

Cook told the Daily Echo: “Junior has had a few setbacks in his time here and we are all praying he is past that now.

“He works extremely hard in the gym and on his prehab, and in everything he does.

“That will show when he is back on the pitch because he is looking stronger, quicker and fitter than he ever has done.

“Junior is a very positive lad. He has been here a long time, is part of the furniture and brings something different to the side.

“When we have him back in the squad and on the pitch, we are going to look that much more frightening going forward.

“The options are plenty right now and I’m glad I’m not the manager!”

Stanislas was snapped up by Eddie Howe in June 2014, the pair having already worked together at Burnley. And the Cherries boss insisted the Londoner’s maturity had helped him through his latest injury setback.

“You don’t expect a player who has been out six months to do so well at those maximal tests because they are very difficult things to do,” said Howe.

“It’s a great sign for him. His professionalism to his rehab and everything he has pushed his body through means he has come through really well. He is in a good place.

“Junior is one of the more experienced players in the group. He has had ups and downs, as most players have.

“But he is probably more mature than he has ever been. He is able to handle these situations and the highs and lows better than previously.

“He has taken this in his stride. It was a big disappointment for him but he has knuckled down.

“He has been a massive player for us down the years. He has that balance between the physical pace you need in the Premier League and the technical ability – it’s quite rare you get both at such excellent levels. It will be great to get him back fit.”