West Brom loanees Jonathan Leko and Sam Field flying high with Charlton Athletic
Jonathan Leko and Sam Field were sent out on loan in summer, but five games into the season they find themselves above Albion in the Championship.
The pair both joined promoted side Charlton Athletic on deadline day, and an unbeaten start to the season has left Lee Bowyer’s team in the dizzying heights of third.
Leko in particular has enjoyed a strong start to life at The Valley, setting up two goals for Lyle Taylor and starting every league game for the Addicks since his arrival.
“He’s been quite impressive,” said Louis Mendez, who covers Charlton for BBC and South London Press. “He’s got this unpredictability.
“Bowyer said there are times the player himself doesn’t know what he’s going to do, which can bamboozle defenders. He’s got ability on the ball to take it past people with such ease.
“When you compare him to some of the tricky wingers Charlton have had over the last few years I think he’s got more of an end product.
“He’s had a couple of assists, he stuck a really nice cross in for Lyle Taylor when they played [Nottingham] Forest.
“He’s still a bit raw, it doesn’t always come off, but there’s been a couple of times I’ve been really impressed that he’s passed it simple rather than taking on his man.”
It’s nearly four years since Leko made his senior debut for Albion in the League Cup under Tony Pulis, but the academy product has struggled for minutes since then.
He’s only made 23 appearances for the Baggies in four years, and started just three times in the league. He’s already started more league fixtures for Charlton.
Leko, who is now 20, has settled in quickly at The Valley, and even took part in the traditional Charlton jump out of the tunnel with star striker Taylor.
“He seems happy to be here,” said Mendez. “It’s a Charlton tradition that when they win the players do a tunnel jump.
“Leko thought they were winding him up so Taylor did it with him. It helps that he came with Sam Field.”
Field hasn’t made as much of an impact yet, but the 21-year-old has started a couple of games.
“He hasn’t had as much chance to play,” said Mendes. “We’ve got Darren Pratley in defensive midfield, so he’s played a couple of times.
“In the League Cup game against Forest Green nobody looked good. He started against Forest in midweek, and that first 45 minutes was the best Charlton have played in years and years.
“He was a part of that passing, the way they moved the ball about was impressive.
“He came off the bench against Brentford at the weekend and was involved in some last-ditch blocks.
“Field got a special mention afterwards, because Bowyer said he put his body on the line for the team, and you don’t always get that with loan players.
“He’s quite happy to get his hands dirty. It’s early days for him, and I think he’s behind on fitness compared to the others.”
Stoke City were keen to sign Field permanently in summer, but Albion were happy to send the pair to Charlton because Bowyer has a reputation for developing youngsters.
“Everyone does seem to buy into what Bowyer does,” admitted Mendes. “Josh Cullen (23) is back on loan from West Ham, Kristian Bielik (21) was on loan from Arsenal last season before his big money move to Derby.
“He’s brought through George Lapslie (21) and Albie Morgan (19), Bowyer is all about improving players.
“Young players get a chance and they tend to get better as the season goes on.”