After comfortably guiding his Birmingham City side to survival last season, and following an impressive summer transfer window, Lee Bowyer has managed to maintain the Blues’ fine form into the club’s 2021/22 Championship campaign – winning two, drawing one and losing one of their opening four league fixtures.
The 44-year-old has also guided his team through to the Carabao Cup second round, defeating Colchester United 1-0 in the first round two weeks ago, and the Blues face Fulham in that competition on Tuesday night.
With the competition perhaps not being a priority for Bowyer during a season in which the manager will undoubtedly be prioritising the club’s league campaign, the fixture will allow him to rotate his side in order to take a look at a couple of younger talents, as well as his first-team fringe players.
One such player who falls into the latter category is Chuks Aneke, the 28-year-old summer signing from Bowyer’s former employers Charlton Athletic.
Indeed, game-time has been limited for the £360k-rated forward at St Andrew’s so far this season, having made three substitute appearances in the Championship, over which he has scored one goal and averaged just 24 minutes on the pitch per game.
However, Aneke demonstrated over his 38 League One appearances for the Addicks last term that he could well deserve a shot from the off against Fulham, with the £5.4k-per-week marksman scoring 15 goals, providing two assists and creating three big chances for his teammates, as well as taking 2.3 shots and making 0.6 key passes per match.
These returns saw the man who Bowyer himself dubbed an “immense” talent earn a highly impressive seasonal SofaScore match rating of 7.03, ranking him as Charlton’s fifth-best performer in the third tier last season.
As such, it would certainly appear that, when he is given the opportunity, the forward can bring considerable returns to his club.
With not much at stake in a cup clash with the Championship table-toppers, it would seem highly advisable for Bowyer to give Aneke a chance from the off. His presence in and around the box could well terrify the Cottagers’ backline, as well as affording the manager a chance to see what the 28-year-old is capable of producing against a challenging opponent.