CHRIS Mepham is prepared to step up and help lead the Cherries backline in the absence of captain Lloyd Kelly.

Just 24 years of age, Mepham is one of the Dorset club’s more experienced defenders when it comes to the Premier League, with only right-backs Adam Smith and Ryan Fredericks featuring in more games than Mepham’s 32 top-flight appearances.

Only Ryan Christie has more international caps than Mepham, with the Scot representing his country 34 times compared to the defender’s 32 appearances for Wales.

When asked if he felt that there would be pressure to help lead Cherries if Kelly remained on the side-lines, Mepham told the Daily Echo: “Looking at the backline, Smudge (Adam Smith) has got tons of experience, but aside from that you’ve got JZ (Jordan Zemura), first season at this level, Marcos (Senesi), new to this country, this way of playing.

“I think there is a little bit of onus on me to be the one to drive us forward.

“With Lloyd out for however long he is, there is going to be a lot more ownership on me.

“I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I can embrace it.”

Mepham recently signed a new deal to remain at the Vitality Stadium until the summer of 2026 following the Welsh international re-establishing himself as a fixture in the first-team.

With a new contract already in the bag, Mepham is keen to keep kicking on further.

He restarted: “I keep my foot on the pedal.

“I’ve waited so long to have an opportunity, a run of games, and fortunately for me I’ve had this run of games now.

“I feel good, I feel fit. I feel like I’m getting better game by game.

“It’s down to me now to stay in that team. It’s the level I feel I belong at, it’s nice that I can sort of showcase myself.”