ANDONI Iraola reiterated David Brooks would be returning to Cherries for pre-season, after his loan spell at Southampton, adding: “I rate him very highly.”

Cherries reluctantly allowed Brooks to depart in the winter transfer window, the 26-year-old making the step down to join Saints in the Championship, in a bid for more game-time.

The Wales international has made 18 appearances for his loan club, 11 of which as a starter, scoring two goals and providing five assists.

He is now hoping to guide Saints back into the Premier League via the play-offs, with a game against West Bromwich Albion at St Mary’s tomorrow. The first leg of the semi-final finished goalless at the Hawthorns.

The winners will go on to face either Leeds United or Norwich City at Wembley later this month.

When Brooks departed on loan, Cherries insisted he would be back as part of the first-team group next season.

Asked if that was still the plan, Iraola, who used Brooks on 18 occasions this season, often as a sub, said: “Yes, no change at all.

“I hope he finishes strong, he can get promoted and be very important for his club now.

“He will try definitely, but he will come back after the summer.

“I have always said it, Brooksy is a very good player.

“I rate him very highly, but it was a matter of him wanting to play more minutes.

“That’s the reason we decided to let him go on loan, for these months.”

Brooks’s Cherries teammate Joe Rothwell is also on loan at Saints, but has been restricted largely to substitute appearances.