Eddie Howe says rookie goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale deserved to start the campaign as Bournemouth’s number one due to his impressive pre-season performances.
Cherries boss Howe sprung a surprise by selecting the 21-year-old ahead of experienced duo Artur Boruc and Asmir Begovic for Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United.
Ramsdale, whose Premier League debut came against his former club following loan spells with Chesterfield and AFC Wimbledon, was also preferred to fellow youngster Mark Travers, who played the final two fixtures of last season.
“It was a tough decision because we’ve got four good goalkeepers, I’ve said that many times,” said Howe.
“I assessed all the training, all the games.
“Aaron didn’t concede a goal in the matches during pre-season, played impressively, had come back from Wimbledon a better goalkeeper, more mature in everything that he did and I thought he deserved to play.”
England Under-21 international Ramsdale, who arrived at the Vitality Stadium from the Blades in January 2017, made solid first-half saves to deny David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson.
He could do little about Billy Sharp’s late leveller, which cancelled out Chris Mepham’s opener to salvage a point for the newly-promoted visitors.
Despite the intense competition for a starting role, Ramsdale says there is a healthy rivalry among Bournemouth’s keepers.
“It wasn’t difficult for me and I don’t think it was difficult for the others. We’ve got to do what we need to do and push each other every day,” he told AFCBTV.
“The camaraderie and belief between all four of us is perfect.
“There were a few disappointed faces but as soon as we got to the training pitch I got plenty of high fives and plenty of texts, reminders of how good I am, just little things from Asmir.
“Deep down I always thought I could get it – to get it is obviously a very special moment for me and my family.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes the deserved point in Dorset will help his inexperienced squad make the transition to top-flight football.
“It will give us belief and confidence. All the players, myself, the staff, first Premier League game, first experience of it, there’s bound to be that apprehension and trepidation of what you’re going into,” said Wilder.
“I think we’ll grow through the season.
“We have to move forward and start creating memories, so it’s a good start for us against a talented side.”