MANAGER Eddie Howe admitted he had been “blown away” by the maturity of Lloyd Kelly – and believes the defender could have “leadership capabilities” as he progresses his career.

Kelly, who has been hit by ankle, thigh and hamstring injuries this season, ended a 13-month wait to make his Premier League debut after coming off the bench against Wolves last week.

The former Bristol City star could feature when Cherries host Newcastle in the top-flight on Wednesday (6pm).

Speaking to the Daily Echo last month, Kelly said: “The amount I’ve developed this year in terms of my mental side of the game and things like that has been good for me.”

Asked whether he had seen that improvement, the Cherries boss said: “Yeah, I think one of the great things about Lloyd when I first met him – I was blown away by how mature he was. How much mental capacity he had to want to improve and learn and to become the very best player that he can be.

“Mentally he was very, very good anyway.

“I think from this spell on the sidelines he’s probably learned a lot about himself and his ability to deal with setbacks.

“He’s had a lot of time on his own to think about where he wants to go with his career. We hope we benefit from that in the future.

“He’s certainly someone who I think could have leadership capabilities as he grows through his career.”

Kelly signed for Cherries from the Robins for £13million last summer.

And while he urged caution in bringing the England under-21 star into the intensity of the top flight, Howe admitted he had been excited by Kelly’s talent.

“Lloyd in our (training) games only played 30 minutes and 45 minutes, so we are building him up to where he needs to be,” he added.

“It’s been a great boost to have him back training among the group but physically in terms of training time and game time, he’d still be a little bit short of where he needs to be.

“But he is an outstanding player, got great potential. We just have to be careful with him in these first few weeks.”