BOSS Scott Parker admitted he had to make “tough decisions” regarding selection to mastermind success at Cherries this season – but challenged players to take their opportunities.

Boosted by new signings and players returning from injury and suspension, the Cherries boss now has an array of options to choose from, in comparison to the stretched nature of his squad at the start of the season.

Parker made the decision to leave out defender Chris Mepham during Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Barnsley, with centre-back Gary Cahill coming in to make his debut.

There was also no place for midfielder Gavin Kilkenny in Parker’s matchday squad, despite the Republic of Ireland under-21 international playing an integral role in midfield during the opening stages of the campaign.

“I have to make tough decisions,” said the Cherries boss, whose side take on Queens Park Rangers in the Championship tomorrow (7.45pm).

“I’m going to have to make tough decisions. I’ve had to make tough decisions on Saturday.

“Leaving Mepham out, clean sheet last game, done unbelievably well. Has been away for the last 10 days on international duty.

“I picked a side here who have been with us for the last two weeks, have been training with us, understand what we want from them.

“Gavin Kilkenny didn’t make the squad, which is very tough and very harsh on Gav. Along with other players who have not been around it. So, these are the decisions you have to make as a manager.

“They’re not easy sometimes, but in saying that I also realise the league we’re in – 46 games, we’re going to be sitting here in a month’s time or a couple of weeks’ time and it will be the reverse of that and we’ll probably be stretched again, because the demands of this division prove that.

“So like Jordan (Zemura) really, which I ask of all these players is they keep coming in, and when they get their opportunity they take it.

“The only way you can take your opportunity is making sure your habits on a daily basis are top drawer, you keep fit, you keep listening, you keep understanding it, you get opportunity, you grab it with both hands and you take it.

“So that is going to be key for the players who are not currently involved.”

Parker was forced to name a youthful bench during the opening stages of the season, as he called on the club’s under-21 squad to bolster his ranks.

Quizzed on now having more options available to him, the former England midfielder added: “The squad is looking very different to where we were at the start of the season. I’m so pleased with how we got through those moments in the first four of five games.

“The squad have done remarkably well, the players have been incredible in that. But the squad is looking a little bit thicker now.

“I can safely say for me that the players I have here, we have a clear way of the way we work and how we play and I have players here that I can rely on, I can put in and they understand our game model and how we play. That’s really pleasing and exciting for me.”