EDDIE Howe confirmed Simon Francis now had “no chance” of featuring in Cherries’ season-defining run-in after revealing he had undergone an operation on his knee.

The club captain has not featured in a matchday squad since the Premier League’s resumption. His last appearance came in a 3-0 defeat at Burnley back in February.

Francis agreed a short-term deal to remain with the club for the rest of the season, with his original contract expiring on June 30.

But the 35-year-old will not be able to feature in the club’s mission to escape the bottom three.

Asked whether Francis could play any part in the remaining fixtures, Howe told the Daily Echo: “No, he’s got no chance.

“He’s just had an operation on his knee, just to have a basic washout of his knee. He feels a lot better for that.

“He will miss the remainder of this season.”

The boss added: “I wouldn’t say I’ve seen a huge amount of Simon during this period or any of the long-term injured because around COVID and all the restrictions that are placed upon us, it’s been a difficult time to spend as much time with any of the players that I would have liked.

“That exclusion away from certain players has been difficult for them and for me.

“But he’s a very strong character and I think he will be focusing on the next phase of what he needs to do.

“He can only control that, and that’s coming back as quickly and as good as he can be.”

Francis made his return from a serious knee injury for Cherries back in September, his first senior appearance came at Burton in the Carabao Cup before going on to play 18 times this campaign.

The skipper had been pictured watching in the stands at Vitality Stadium during the Dorset club’s 4-1 victory over Leicester City.

Quizzed on what Francis had been doing to keep belief in the squad, Howe said: “It’s been difficult for him because naturally when you have an operation, you are away from the group.

“He has been recuperating from that operation, so it’s difficult for him to have too much of an impact.

“I am sure it’s been a tough time for him to be excluded from training and everything he wants to be doing.

“But I know when he has been seeing the lads and when he’s been around them, he’s been his very positive, inspirational self.”