Joshua King scored his first Premier League hat-trick in AFC Bournemouth’s crucial 3-2 victory over West Ham United, which eased their relegation fears. The Norway international has thrived on the responsibility of leading the line since the season-ending knee injury to Callum Wilson. With seven goals in his past five matches – and 11 in total this campaign – King is one of the in-form strikers in England’s top-flight. As well as the goals, the high standard of his performances have impressed everyone at Bournemouth and brought him to the attention of a wider audience.
King, who graduated through Manchester United’s youth ranks after moving to the UK from his native Oslo, joined the Cherries from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2015 for a tribunal fee believed to be £1 million. His initial displays were criticised by sections of the club’s supporters as he took time to familiarise himself with Eddie Howe’s philosophy. However, the improvement King has shown in the past 12 months especially, has been remarkable. He finished with six Premier League goals in Bournemouth’s maiden top-flight season and has become one of the first names on Eddie Howe’s team-sheet this term, culminating in his three-goal salvo in a man-of-the-match performance against West Ham.
Considering how his afternoon had started, taking home the match ball was probably the last thing King expected. He spurned a ninth-minute penalty, firing wide of the goal, and then watched on as the Hammers took the lead less than a minute later. But the versatile attacker underlined his mental toughness to bounce back from a setback by netting the equaliser. Controlling an awkward ball in the box with his right foot, King used his strength to hold off Jose Fonte before swivelling on to his left and steering the ball past goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
While his first goal showcased his skill, King’s second and third efforts were testament to his positional awareness and finishing ability. With the match poised at 1-1 in the opening moments of the second half, Bournemouth’s leading scorer was in the right place to turn home a knockdown from Benik Afobe. King had stationed himself away from the Hammers’ defensive line when the free-kick was taken, gambling that the ball would fall to him as all top striker do.
King was causing West Ham nightmares with his pace and ability to run past opponents. Then in the 90th minute, after the visitors had levelled, he again found himself in the perfect spot to convert a rebound from Jack Wilshere’s shot. It was King’s composure – with his right foot this time – that really stood out at a defining moment of the game. It would have been easy for him to fluff his lines with three vital points at stake, but when Bournemouth needed someone to stand up and be counted, the Norwegian responded. It’s why he is so highly rated by Howe, his team-mates and everyone at the club.