The summer signing of Josh King was met with great enthusiasm by the Bournemouth fans. We had seen what he had done last season against Stoke City in the FA Cup for Blackburn Rovers, and it was hoped that he might be the kind of signing that would ease the team’s transition to the top flight. He has filled in when Callum Wilson was injured and is now back to support new signing Benik Afobe.
All the signs were good in pre-season with Josh pairing up with Wilson to score a good goal against Philadelphia Union in the USA. The two players had pace and power and looked set to lead the Cherries’ campaign back in England when the season began in August. The idea was undoubtedly that the pair would spearhead the attack this season. It was a bold decision for Howe to make as the former Man United trainee only made 64 appearances in a Blackburn shirt, between 2012-15, scoring just five goals in that time.
However, with Wilson getting a cruciate ligament injury at Stoke City, ruling him out for six months, the pressure was all on King to lead the line, at least until the January transfer window. That was a huge job for a young striker that was still having hamstring worries himself and learning to play in a new role to best help the team. For Josh though, there was still no league goals at the end of September and he had flittered in and out of the team, as he had struggled to find the consistency of performance he needed to satisfy Howe.
Since the autumn, Josh was the regular ‘go-to’ striker for Eddie Howe. Not once had he appeared on the substitutes’ bench until the away match against Stoke City in late September, and through October and November he played in all the league matches. Moreover, a substitute appearance in the second half against Southampton at St Mary’s gave the Cherries a new way of playing with King and Junior Stanislas starting to build a better understanding up front.
The hamstring strain which Josh has had since scoring the winner against Man United at Dean Court has slowed his progress, but supporters have already seen in the big matches – such as against Chelsea – that the Norway international has been instrumental in taking the game to these teams. Howe will continue to work with him and develop him to be the type of striker that will benefit the team the most. Josh is only 23 and is not the finished article yet, and fans need to understand that.
So will Josh be the striker that scores the goals to keep the South Coast side in this league? I believe he will contribute and will only get better the more he plays in the top-flight. It is against other players that have recently moved from the Championship that we can best judge Josh. His former team-mate Rudy Gestede has found it difficult at Aston Villa after a good early start, while Bakary Sako has had some strong games at Crystal Palace, but is currently injured, and Michail Antonio has been superb in recent weeks at West Ham.
Let’s see if King can rival these players in the goal charts come the end of the season. Eddie Howe has options now with Benik Afobe and a fit again Josh King. From a fan’s point of view, it is just great to see young English players make their mark at a club like AFC Bournemouth.
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