EDDIE Howe believes Steve Cook is in Gareth Southgate’s thinking to become the next Cherries player selected by England.

Centre-half Cook has previously been reported to have been “closely watched” by the national boss.

And the 27-year-old insisted it would be his “dream” to represent his country.

Quizzed on the defender’s international prospects, Cherries manager Howe said: “I think he certainly would have a chance, whether that is in the immediate or long-term future.

“He has been a real model of consistency for a period of time in the Premier League. There are not many English centre-backs performing at his consistent levels.

“I am sure he is in Gareth’s mind. Obviously you need a little bit of luck on the way depending on whether you get that final call but I think Cooky has had a very good season to this point.

“I think he has been one of our most consistent performers.”

Cherries’ record top-flight appearance-maker, Cook has not missed a minute of the Dorset club’s league campaign this season.

He is set to be involved when Howe’s men take on Arsenal at Vitality Stadium on Sunday (1.30pm).

“Over the past few seasons he has become accustomed to the speed, pace and intensity of the Premier League,” said Howe.

“As a defender, every week you are up against a different challenge. Athletically, forward players are so quick these days there is a big responsibility on the defenders – you have to be able to match that.

“I think physically he has looked really good this season.

“Mentally he has definitely matured as the seasons have gone on, he has become a lot more consistent in his training performances which have resulted in more consistent matchday performances.

“I think it’s a natural evolution through age that you find the things which work for you on a good level. I think he has been in a good place.”

Asked about his England ambitions earlier this season, Cook told the Daily Echo: “It’s a very tough question because it’s a dream of mine to play for England. Is it possible? I’m not too sure.

“If you are playing well for your club you give yourself a great chance and that’s all I’m focused on.

“If it ever came about it would be amazing. If not, I am just really happy being a Bournemouth player.

“My dream is to represent my country and that has never changed but sometimes you have to be realistic and, if your face doesn’t fit, it won’t happen.”

Lewis Cook became Cherries’ first serving player to represent England at senior level when he came off the bench against Italy in a friendly in March.

The former Leeds ace was also on standby for the World Cup in Russia.

Last week Callum Wilson scored on his first start for the Three Lions in a 3-0 friendly victory over USA.