By George Rinaldi.
Harry Kane might be the name on everyone’s lips as the Spurs striker’s electric form has earned him an England call-up – but you’ll find another leading scorer, Afobe, playing in the Championship.
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Prolific goalscorer Benik Afobe, 22, is being moulded into a star by Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Kenny Jackett. He saw the potential of the former Arsenal kid two years ago after signing him on loan when he was in charge of Millwall. Afobe managed just five matches for the Lions before picking up a knee injury, but he was the standout performer in a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough. He had previously featured for Huddersfield Town and Reading before arriving at Bolton Wanderers, scoring his first goal, ironically, against current side Wolves.
After another loan deal to Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 20, questions were being asked: was Afobe another one of those players, who are shifted out on loan constantly before inevitably ending up in the third tier of English football? Well, funnily enough, he did end up with League One side MK Dons, but he was ready to show what he was made of.
The Dons coach Karl Robinson welcomed Afobe with open arms at the start of the 2014-15 season after he impressed by scoring three times in two games in pre-season at Arsenal. Fans took to Twitter to hail the Dons’ loan signing as one posted simply: “He is too good for League One.” Whilst another predicted: “Well, if he scores a lot of goals that is him off to a Championship club.”
Afobe made his debut for his new side in a 4-2 opening day victory against Gillingham – coming on as a substitute with just under 15 minutes left. He was being played centrally in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Ben Reeves playing off the shoulder of him. He is powerful and has pace, which you need to lead the line individually.
It showed in the coming games. He scored his first just two matches later away at Chesterfield, this time in a 4-2-3-1 set-up, but Afobe remained by himself – battling for every 50/50 and chasing down every lost cause. He would just keep scoring; Crawley Town, Barnsley, Crewe Alexandra and Bristol City all felt his powerful presence in the preceding month of fixtures.
Within those came two superb braces – the first in the 4-0 victory over Manchester United, the second against Bradford City in the Capital One Cup. Despite being knocked out of the cup to Wimbledon, he finished as the competition’s top scorer with six strikes. In 1903 minutes across all competitions, Afobe had netted 19 times.
The star man caught the attention of Jackett and he left in a £2million deal to Championship side Wolves in January. Eight goals in 14 appearances says it all. Afobe has hit the ground running in Old Gold, playing in either a 4-4-1-1, 4-4-2 or even 4-3-3 formation at Molineux, and it shows the class the man holds. He’s now scored 27 goals in total – which surpassed Harry Kane’s tally until last weekend.
Hopefully he will not make the leap to top-flight football just yet if Wolves fail to gain promotion, but it can only be a matter of time before England boss Roy Hodgson comes calling. The best years of Afobe’s career are ahead of him – and it will be a thrill to watch them unfold.
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