EDDIE Howe insists Lloyd Kelly has shown “very good professionalism” as his wait for a Premier League debut rumbles on.

The England under-21 ace has been restricted to one Carabao Cup appearance since his arrival from Bristol City in May on a deal worth around £13million.

After a strong start to pre-season, Kelly suffered an ankle injury which kept him out of action for two months until he returned to take on Burton Albion in September.

However, due to the form of Diego Rico at left-back, Kelly has been unable to force his way into the side since. He was named as an unused substitute for five matches in a row before picking up a thigh problem which kept him out of the trip to Newcastle last time out.

Kelly enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at hometown team Bristol City in 2018-19, making 34 appearances, but Howe says the 21-year-old has responded well to his lack of game time so far.

“I think Lloyd is understanding of his position,” Howe told the Daily Echo.

“I think he had a nasty injury at a really bad time because he’d had a really good pre-season and then the team has done pretty well since he’s come back.

“They’ve been consistent enough and the back four have done well enough for me not to change it. I think he understands that and I think he’s behind the scenes learning every day in training how we want to play so when he does get his opportunity, he can take it.”

Cherries’ boss added: “He’ll get an opportunity to show how good he is.

“The beauty of Lloyd is he can play different positions. He’s got a versatility about him, which gives him more chance to play.

“But he’s in a very good place. He’s shown very good professionalism, wants to learn all the time, stays out, he’s one of the last off the training pitch every day so I think he’s going to have a great career.”

Kelly’s return to training has coincided with an upturn in Rico’s form with the Spaniard currently enjoying his longest run in the Cherries side, starting in the past six consecutive matches, which included a run of three clean sheets in a row.

Asked if he feels the added competition has spurred on the 26-year-old, Howe said: “Yeah, I’ve got no doubt.

“But it’s not only Lloyd. There’s Simon Francis and obviously Jack Stacey in the full-back positions that are adding real competition for everybody.

“I think that’s no coincidence the back four has played really well.

“You’ve got Chris Mepham who is chomping at the bit to play as well, so good signs that we’ve got very good defenders waiting to play.”