It is safe to say that the signing of Joshua King by Bournemouth in the summer 2015 transfer window rated fewer column inches than the arrivals of Roberto Firmino at Liverpool, Memphis Depay at Manchester United or even Clinton N’Jie (Who? Exactly) at Tottenham Hotspur.
But after the 25-year-old Norway striker’s hat-trick against West Ham United on Saturday brought his recent total to eight goals in seven Premier League matches, it would hard to argue that Bournemouth’s payment of around £1m to Blackburn Rovers – decided by a tribunal after King’s contract at Ewood Park expired – was not one of the biggest bargains struck that summer.
Born in Oslo, King was brought to England by Manchester United in July 2009 but failed to make it into Alex Ferguson’s first team plans. A series of loans ended with a move to Blackburn, but five goals in 64 league appearances there hardly hinted at what he has achieved since he came under Eddie Howe’s influence at Bournemouth.
“When I first started to work with him, I believed he could be anything he wanted to be,” Howe said. “He has everything that he needs to be a top-level player. I still feel the same way. It’s just a case of trying to work with him every day to get those improvements in his game that we feel he needs.
“We work in the same way with all the players, to try to improve them individually. Always the responsibility is with the player how much they will improve, because it is their responsibility to take everything on board. That’s what Josh has done. I’ve been very, very impressed.”
Howe feels that King’s failure to make the grade at Old Trafford has helped his development. “Yes, you can certainly use disappointments as motivation to inspire the rest of your career. A set-back doesn’t have to mean it’s final for you. Josh has taken that attitude. I’ve loved working with him from day one. I’m just pleased his hard work has been rewarded.”
King scored six goals in 24 Premier League starts last season, when Callum Wilson was the main striker, and has 11 in 22 so far this time, making him comfortably the club’s top scorer. Wilson’s absence through injury has pushed King into the more central role and he has thrived.
He names Thierry Henry, Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku as strikers he admires, but Howe, although a defender as a player, has also been an influence. “I am learning so much from the gaffer,” King says.
“Last year, I was playing more as a winger and playing deeper. I have been working with the gaffer about getting the instinct to score goals. He has been telling me to get in the box whereas before I was just outside it. Now I am being a No.9 and enjoying it.
“We have had a rough patch in 2017 and the [1-1 draw last weekend] at Old Trafford gave us the boost in confidence we needed and hopefully we can now just kick on even more and climb the table.”