BOSS Eddie Howe admitted David Brooks’s pending return from injury “hasn’t been a smooth process” and said: “We were hoping by now that he would be back fit and playing.”

The Wales international is yet to kick a ball in a competitive game for the Dorset club this season, having undergone surgery after injuring his ankle at Brentford in pre-season.

Brooks burst on to the scene in the top flight last campaign following a £10million move from Sheffield United.

The Warrington-born star scored seven times and recorded five assists in 30 Premier League games.

But Howe revealed Brooks had been back to consult a specialist about the ongoing injury, which had initially been set to keep him out for three months.

Asked about the 22-year-old, Howe said: “We were hoping by now that he would be back fit and playing.

“The timespan that we were given when he went on the operating table was that he would be back by now, but it hasn’t been a smooth process.

“And as I sit here now, there is no guarantee that it will continue to be a smooth process. Let’s wait and see.”

The manager added: “He’s had various little moments where his ankle hasn’t felt as good as we want it to feel. He hasn’t had one moment where he’s had a permanent setback but he’s had a few moments where we think we’re getting somewhere with him and then we’ve just had to take a step back.

“We’re in that phase again with him at the moment where I think he’s been to see a specialist again, just to check we’re on the right path with him.

“What we don’t want to do is bring him back and then he does have that setback or he does have that moment where we have to revisit it.

“The ankle hasn’t felt consistently as good as we want it to, so let’s wait and see.”

The injury also meant former Manchester City youngster Brooks was also ruled out of the business end of Wales’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

But with Ryan Giggs’s side having reached next summer’s finals, the Cherries star will be looking to hit the ground running on his return to action with the Dorset club.

“We obviously want him back as soon as possible,” said Howe.

“He’s a massive player for us, but he’s got to come back fit and able to produce his best and we’re all working hard to make sure that happens.”