CAPTAIN Simon Francis believes increased discussion about the future of boss Eddie Howe highlights “the fickle side of football”, adding: “We are going to need him now more than ever.”

Cherries sit 19th in the Premier League, three points adrift of safety after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Norwich City, a 10th defeat in 12 top-flight matches.

During that run, Howe has fielded questions over whether he feels he is the right man to guide the club away from danger, while multiple bookmakers list the Cherries boss as the next Premier League manager to leave his post.

Howe, who earlier this season was linked with a move to fellow top-flight clubs West Ham and Everton, began his second spell at Cherries in October 2012.

“We speak about his future every single week when we are doing well,” said skipper Francis.

“Now for the first time we are not doing so well and we are suddenly speaking about his future again.

“It is the fickle side of football and it’s the media side of things that you have to deal with as a player and he obviously deals with as a manager.

“I am sure it’s hard for him day in, day out when we’re not winning games, because ultimately he takes the brunt of it. He is the manager of the football club.

“But what I will say is he has shown unbelievable character in and around the squad, in and around the lads.

“He always has done with his man-management skills and how to motivate players and we are going to need him now more than ever.”

Asked how tough this run of form will be for Howe to take, Francis added: “He is hurting of course. It’s the toughest situation we’ve been in, but he’s been excellent, as you’d expect from him.

“He says the right things at the right times, doesn’t lose his cool in the wrong times, in the tough times and he’s trying to stay positive.

“Obviously that’s hard when you’re on a run of form like we are. But he is the main man. If he shows signs of weakness or negativity then that’ll have an effect on the lads.

“He’s been excellent in the way he’s carried himself on the training pitch on matchdays and I speak on behalf of the lads to be proud to be playing under him every week.”

Cherries host Brighton tomorrow evening (7.30pm) in a crunch clash between two of the league’s strugglers.

Just five points separate Howe’s men with the Seagulls, who sit 15th.

“We know how tight it is down there and a couple of wins can see you bounce up the league a few places,” said Francis.

“We’ve seen what Watford have done over the last few weeks. Can we be inspired by them?

“The motivation they’ve obviously had, the results they’ve picked up.

“All it takes is one win, one catalyst, something to kick-start the second half of our season because we’re going to need something pretty quickly and hopefully it comes Tuesday.”