When Bolton Wanderers signed Reece Burke at the start of the season there was plenty of excitement about what he and his fellow West Ham United loanee Josh Cullen would bring to the side. He’s shown flashes of what he’s capable of throughout the campaign, but it seems the East End kid is finally showing his true potential at the business end of the season.
Upon the announcement of the team line-ups at 2pm on Saturday it was clear that the Sheffield Wednesday gameplan wouldn’t be particularly subtle. The 6 foot 6 inch frame of Adthe Nuhiu dwarfed most players on the pitch, not least his fellow giant striker Lucas Joao, who stands a mere 6 foot 4 inches.
Unfazed, Burke, himself standing at 6 foot 2 inches, put in a solid performance alongside Mark Beevers in a four man defence for the second away game in a row. Burke again looked solid and even dominated in the air against the huge Wednesday strike duo, winning more headers than any of his teammates.
It’s fair to say the 21-year-old defender has had some struggles this season, including a tough time against Cardiff City last month that prompted some not exactly complimentary reactions from some Wanderers fans. But since then Burke has responded in the best way possible, playing well in an unfamiliar midfield role in the 0-0 draw at Norwich City followed by a couple more top-notch defensive displays in two further away draws.
Regardless of whether David Wheater is injured or not, Burke has well and truly established himself as first choice in the last couple of games. He’ll now face a big test on Saturday evening with high-flying Aston Villa coming to town, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the threat of Villa’s in-form, more diverse and more talented attack than he’s faced in the last week.
Given the bizarre scenes at his parent club at the weekend, Burke may well be pleased he had the opportunity to come back to the north west for the remainder of the season and it’s great to see him taking his opportunity at the most vital of times.