LEE Bradbury last night moved to defend Matt Tubbs’s hefty price tag after smashing Cherries’ record transfer fee to sign the prolific striker.

Tubbs yesterday penned a three-and-a-half year deal at Seward Stadium after Cherries agreed a package understood to have been in the region of £800,000 with League Two high-fliers Crawley Town.

That figure dwarfed the £210,000 fee splashed on Gavin Peacock by the Dorset club in 1989.

Tubbs joins fellow January window signings Scott Malone, Steve Cook, Wes Thomas, Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis and takes Bradbury’s winter spending spree to around £1.5million.

Bradbury told the Echo: “It’s a really big signing. If you want to buy someone as in-form as Matt is, it is always going to cost a fairly big fee.

“Show me a striker at any level who scores goals week in and week out who is cheap – you can’t get them, especially in January. I really think we have had a result with what we have spent and I think it is a reflection of Matt Tubbs as a player.

“I was pleased to get it done because it has been hard work. To sign someone of Matt’s quality is a really big step for us.

“The advantage was is that Matt is from the area and he knows what the club is about and where we are going. He is excited to sign for us and it speaks volumes that he chose us over many other clubs that wanted to sign him.”

Tubbs, starting his fourth spell at the club, will go straight into Bradbury’s squad for the visit of Exeter City on Saturday.

The 27-year-old notched 40 goals in 47 appearances for Crawley last season and already has 18 strikes to his name this term, including scoring the winner against Championship outfit Hull City on Saturday as the Red Devils advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Bradbury added: “I played with Matt before when he was here on loan and I always liked his work rate and attitude. I think he has gone away and grown up in football terms and I think we are seeing the best of him right now. Hopefully, he can continue that progression with us.

“Matt can play in the hole behind the lone striker or in a 4-4-2 so it will be interesting to see how he gets on with Wes up front. We also have Michael Symes, Jayden Stockley, Lyle Taylor and Steve Fletcher, so we have real options in that position.

“Crawley didn’t want to sell him but they were fair to him and have given him the chance to progress as an individual. When teams from above come in for players, it is hard to keep them – we have seen that ourselves many times.

“Crawley are probably going to get promoted, but Matt sees coming to us very much as a step up.”

Meanwhile, Bradbury could launch a transfer deadline-day bid for Swindon Town’s Matt Ritchie.

Cherries have already had a £500,000 offer for the winger rejected by the Robins, but Echo sources claim the Dorset club is keen to tie up a deal for the 22-year-old before the January window slams shut at 11pm tonight.