GARY Bowyer says Josh King has put himself in contention to start Blackburn Rovers’ opening match of the season as the Norwegian begins to add an end product to his game.
King impressed in Wednesday’s pre-season friendly at Bury, winning the penalty for Jordan Rhodes’ late equaliser at Gigg Lane.
The 22-year-old has started up front in each of Rovers’ last two friendly matches, before moving out wide for the second half at Bury following Lee Williamson’s red card.
King has been criticised in the past for not converting his pace and dribbling skills into an end product in the past, but Bowyer believes the former Manchester United youngster is starting to put that right.
“I don’t think there’s anyone close to him in the Championship with that blistering pace,” said Bowyer, whose side host Premier League Stoke City in their final pre-season game on Sunday, before opening their Championship campaign at home to Cardiff City on Friday.
“What he has got to do this year is add more goals and more assists to his game, but he’s aware of that and he’s worked very hard at it.
“Towards the back end of last season you saw what a threat he was with his pace, and what he added to it was his quality in his delivery.
“He was brilliant against Bury, I thought he was very good up front and then he went out wide in the second half. We’re pleased with his last two performance in particular.
“He has showed some really good form and put his case forward for starting on Sunday against Stoke, and then looking towards Cardiff.”
King though was forced off late on at Bury after battling through the game with illness, and has been one of several players who has been struggling this week.
Ben Marshall and Rudy Gestede both missed the Gigg Lane fixture, with Bowyer saying that the latter was due to contact the Benin FA to discuss his planned trip to Malawi for an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday.
“He’s not fit at this moment,” the Rovers boss said after Wednesday’s match.
“We have a sickness and diarrhoea bug flying through the camp, I think we’ve got eight down with it so we need to get rid of that quickly.
“At this moment it’s a case of getting in and seeing who’s not got this bug and sorting that out.
“We’d like to try to get to Stoke with the team that possibly could start against Cardiff.”
Trialists Carlos Cuellar, Jordan Spence and Jamie Ashdown all featured in a behind closed doors game on Wednesday afternoon.
“They all did well,” Bowyer said.
“They will stay for the rest of the week and then we will take it from there in terms of the Stoke game.”
Rovers lost Lee Williamson to a red card at Bury, but Bowyer was pleased with his side’s performance.
“I thought the game was a great workout,” he said.
“You saw the spirit and the character of the lads when we were down to 10 men and I thought we did ever so well.
“There were some mammoth efforts from our lads and it was the first 90 minutes so we were really pleased.”
Rovers will wear their new green away shirt for the first time against Stoke.
The kit went on sale yesterday, priced at £49.99.