DETERMINED Jack Stacey insisted competition in Cherries’ squad would be key to their success this season.

The full-back made his return to action for the 0-0 draw with Hull City at the end of last month, after overcoming a quad problem.

Ninety minutes against the Tigers was Stacey’s first league outing under head coach Scott Parker, with an array of youngsters previously asked to step up due to injuries in the group.

But Stacey believes that now players are returning to action, battles for places will hot up.

He told the Daily Echo: “The young lads have performed when they’ve come in and other players when they’ve got the shirt.

“So that keeps everyone working hard in training and then, at the end of the day, we’ve got a squad of maybe 20-25 that all want to be on the pitch and everyone needs to keep pushing each other.

“I think healthy competition within the squad benefits everyone and keeps everyone on their toes.”

With the likes of Stacey and Adam Smith out through illness and injury respectively during periods in August, centre-half Chris Mepham was tasked with stepping up as a makeshift right-back in games against Nottingham Forest, Birmingham and Blackpool.

Asked how he felt his team-mate did in the role during his absence, Stacey said: “I thought he did well. I mean, I didn’t see many overlaps from him! But I think on the ball he did really well.

“Defensively he was asking me for a few tips, so hopefully they paid off. I think for him to go out there and then slide back into centre-back and perform in both positions is credit to him.

“Coventry away last year, he was overlapping me at centre-back. So he’s got one overlap as a centre-back and zero as a right-back!

“But he’s performed well this season and he’s stepped in and I think that’s the sort of players we need for this squad, that will do a job not necessarily for themselves but for the team.”

Parker’s side are back in action on Saturday, when they welcome Barnsley to Vitality Stadium (3pm).

They have picked up two victories and three draws from five Championship games and are yet to suffer defeat in the league.

“I think we said it’s a good start but not a great start,” said Stacey. “There has obviously been external factors with injuries and players being unavailable.

“But that’s the Championship. The games come thick and fast and the players that have come in have performed, so I’d say good but not great.”