EDDIE Howe insisted “mature” Chris Mepham had not been fazed by locking horns with the Premier League’s best and said: “I see signs of a leader in there”

Having played 90 minutes throughout Cherries’ past three games – the £12million signing from Championship Brentford could be set for an extended run in the side, after Steve Cook had been ruled out for another five to six weeks.

Mepham has already featured against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City since moving to Vitality Stadium in January.

He is expected to line up in the heart of the Dorset club's defence at struggling Huddersfield Town tomorrow (3pm).

Boss Howe believes the Wales international has already proven he can be “thrust in at the deep end”.

He told the Daily Echo: “It has been really good early signs for Chris.

“He has attacked it really well so far. Mentally he has shown real maturity and hasn’t been fazed by the occasions and the games.

“I have been really pleased with him and I see signs of a leader in there as well, which is a great sign for the future.

“He has come into the team and has not looked a new player, which I think is a huge compliment.

“He will improve from the experiences by being thrust in at the deep end. His improvement will be accelerated.

“Last week he was up against Sergio Aguero – with the movement and quality he has.

“Chris has been thrown in against some of the best players in the world and I think that will do him the world of good. It will accelerate his learning and bring his game on in different ways.”

Hammersmith-born Mepham is the likely candidate to deputise for stricken star Cook, who has suffered an infection following an injection to a groin complaint.

And with his side 12th in the table, nine points clear of the bottom three, Howe admitted losing the club’s record Premier League appearance maker had been tough to take.

“When the chips are down Cookie is someone we have always looked to, to inspire the team and to lead us through any difficult moments,” said the Cherries boss.

“He has been excellent this season and has been a real vocal part of our changing room – a real leader within the group.

“It’s a real shame and has been a big blow for us.

“We are going to miss him, we have missed him but we hope to get him back as quickly as possible.”

The boss revealed he would make a late call on frontman Callum Wilson.

The England international had been out since mid-January with a knee injury.

Howe added: “Callum has done some light training this week and has been back on the grass for the first time. He has looked pretty good.

“We have to pick and choose the right moment for him to come back. I am going to have to consult with Callum and the physios to see how he feels.”

Striker Dominic Solanke is edging closer to a return from a thigh problem, while Junior Stanislas remains out with an injury to his hip flexor.