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First team

The Long Read: Joshua King


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

How did Joshua King become the bullish striker we now see at Vitality Stadium; an attacker able to shake off the most physical Premier League defenders while maintaining the finesse to score or assist in close to 40 top-flight goals for the Cherries?

MATCHDAY took King along to THIS workspace in Bournemouth to talk about his childhood in Oslo, making the move to Manchester United and what his tattoos say about his personality.

How was your upbringing in Norway?

My upbringing was amazing, ten out of ten. I was born and raised in Oslo and then moved over to the UK when I was 16. Where I grew up it was all about football, everyone around me played and that’s how I got my friends and I’ve still got most of them from that time.

Everyone just played football and when you’re young you just enjoy it, you don’t think about all the extra things like how you need to be mentally and physically, you just enjoy it. It was a very good childhood and one I wouldn’t change for anything.

What was the area you grew up in like, rough or posh?

It was nothing posh. It was a rough area but it got better as I got older, now it’s back to rough and it was until I was seven-years-old, then it calmed down a bit. I never experienced any roughness towards me because I was talented from a young age. The older lads would always take care of me and my mum would let me stay out late as long as it was for football.

The other kids would be four, five, six years older than me, I was always the youngest and that has influenced me and I think that comes out now when you see me on the pitch and I don’t really respect anyone.

If I’m playing Man City or Burnley I’ll treat the defenders the same and I don’t really care who I’m up against.

When did football become serious for you and when did you start to think about the future?

I would say when I was 16 and United wanted me to sign after my first training session with them, then I thought ‘yeah, I can make a living from this’, but still then I didn’t put too much pressure on, but especially my mum realised my potential then.

Going to Manchester was a big step, how did you first find out that United wanted you to come over so they could have a look at you?

There was a Nike Cup in Norway and we won the tournament. First, I played for the team I grew up with, then I signed for Valerenga. My team got to the quarter-finals and some of my team-mates were sad, I was playing a year up and one of the coaches came over and said I didn’t look sad and I said I would be playing again next year.

That next year I got six goals, five assists or something and we won the tournament and went to Holland to play a tournament there against everyone else in the world. We didn’t do too well there but I never say that, I just say we won the tournament in Norway.

When I came back the team pulled me into a meeting and tried to offer me a contract, I’m not going to name the numbers but it was very embarrassing.

They wanted me to stay at the club but at the end of the meeting they said they’d had interest in me from some clubs and mentioned the names.

My mum contacted an agent because we didn’t know what to do, I was from a small area and was just starting to get interest from abroad and she wanted the best for her son. Two weeks later I was on the plane to Manchester and the day I was due to come home again my mum told me they wanted to sign me ASAP.

I didn’t take much time or go on too many trials, I don’t like change and I liked Manchester, there were players like Jesse Lingard, Danny Welbeck and Danny Drinkwater and I enjoyed it. I said yes to United and signed, that’s when the seriousness started.

You say you don’t like change, did anyone come over to England with you?

Yeah, my mum came with me for the first two and half years and lived with me. She moved back when I was 18, it was time for me to grow up then and that was important.

It’s good to see how many of us from the academy are now making a living after what we went through together. When you see them at games you speak to them and you see them on TV, if they do well you send them a little message, and vice versa.

Pogba signed the year after but Jesse didn’t play much. He was always playing at 100%, the smallest on the pitch but always jumping into tackles, he shows how football can change. He was patient, Sir Alex told him to be because he needed time to grow, that’s what was good for him and now it’s paying off.

Jesse Lingard had to be patient, but so did you with some loan moves, going to Blackburn and then coming to us. How important for your career was the move here and working under Eddie?

The gaffer’s influence has been as important as me moving to England and chasing my dream. I struggled a lot with injuries when I was with United. I don’t think I got my chance fairly but you move on and try something else. Coming here has 100% got me more focused, not only that, I’ve stayed fit and trained better than I ever have. I’ve learned a lot and I still am.

How is life off the pitch for you at the moment in Bournemouth?

It was too hot here this summer! I appreciate the rain and the breeze that we’ve got now. Bournemouth is a lovely town in the summer – but having the beach around means there’s no parking around! I’m more of a shopping guy, I love fashion and clothes and Bournemouth doesn’t have a Selfridges so I try to get to London when I can.

And how’s life as a dad?

Life as a dad is amazing, my son’s getting big, very big. He knows what I do now and was out on the training pitch a few weeks ago. He loved it and didn’t want to come off as he was playing with me. He was talking a bit to the gaffer and some of the players and they were really good to him.

As soon as he sees the Bournemouth badge he says ‘daddy, football’, he understands.

You have to change when you become a dad, I was a kid before I got him I would say. He’s helped me grow as a person and changed my life for the better.

Do you have a tattoo of him? Tattoos seem to be something you’re passionate about.

Yeah, I have a tattoo of him, I have a few tattoos. I just love fashion and art. I don’t like paintings like Tyrone Mings does, but I love fashion. People judge people with tattoos and that’s why I don’t have them on my neck but I love creating something and putting it on my body.

I have one of my son, but not his picture because I want to wait until he’s older, then I want to get a good picture and put that on there.

What’s your favourite tattoo, I’ve heard you have Nelson Mandela on your back?

Yeah, I’ve got a black history piece on my whole back, it’s not really finished yet, it’s a work in progress, I want to get it all done before I properly show it off. I’ve got OCD and I’m a perfectionist, I want it all done and dusted.

Have you got any parts that you haven’t got tattooed yet?

I haven’t done my right leg and I’ve not touched my belly; there’s not much, I’d say I’ve covered maybe 60 or 70% of my body even though you can’t really tell when I’ve got the kit on.

I’m not that picky, but one thing that I don’t have is Jesus or anything to do with religion, I don’t want that on my body. The reason why is for me, but I just love different stuff and if I like something I’ll take it, I’m a free spirit so I get what I like and try to make it look cool.

You’ve been here for more than three years, are we close to seeing the best of you or is there more to come?

You’ve had a glimpse, but I don’t think you’ve seen the best of me. I scored 16 goals one season but my performances weren’t the best. I played well from December up to the summer, and I know no footballer can be ten out of ten in every game but I do want to have more of a steady season where I play well over the whole season and not have patches.

I still have a lot to learn from Eddie and the staff and I know I’ve got more potential in me.

You’re a strong player on the pitch, how much of that is to do with spending time in the gym?

I try to stay away from the gym, I don’t slam the weights. I don’t think I’ve done a proper upper body session in about four years, it’s just my genes, I can thank my dad for them. I don’t like doing upper body, I like swimming but if I put too much muscle mass on I go heavy and can’t run properly so I just stick to legs in the gym, legs and core.

Any player has to play to their strengths, and my strength is with running hard and being physical so I have to play to that, it’s probably why I keep playing and the gaffer chooses me in the team.


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