Benik Afobe: Bournemouth striker chases more club starts and DR Congo caps

Bournemouth striker Benik Afobe
Benik Afobe's only starts for Bournemouth this season have come in the EFL Cup

Bournemouth striker Benik Afobe says the smile has returned to his face after a difficult start to this season.

The 23-year-old's chances have been limited for the Cherries so far this campaign after joining from Wolves for £10m in January.

"Not being part of the team has been a different kind of challenge," he told BBC Radio Solent. "But the manager has never lost faith in me.

"I didn't sulk at being left out, but perhaps I didn't train as hard."

Arsenal academy graduate Afobe is yet to start a Premier League game for Bournemouth this season, but the former England Under-21 international has remained positive.

"I'm not someone that really sulks or is what they call in football 'a bad egg', or someone that starts gossiping and affecting the changing room," he added.

"I was a bit too down to start with, but after the chat with the manager, I've been better in training in the last couple of months and the opportunities have come.

"The smile is definitely back on my face."

Great to be back with Jack

Benik Afobe and Jack Wilshere at Arsenal
Afobe and Jack Wilshere forged their friendship in Arsenal's academy

Afobe credits some of his upturn in mood to being reunited with his "best mate in football", Jack Wilshere.

On-loan Arsenal midfielder Wilshere, 24, and Afobe forged their friendship as trainees under Arsene Wenger.

"Jack's a top guy who speaks to everyone and is really humble," Afobe said.

"He's really lifted the quality in training since he's arrived and he's a great role model to any young players. He works hard and has stayed the same throughout his career."

Dreams of AFCON - as long as the paperwork arrives

Afobe has two fronts to focus on this season as he not only chases more starts for Bournemouth but also a place in DR Congo's squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

His latest international call-up ended in frustration as he travelled all the way to Africa, only for an administration error to prevent him from playing.

"Basically, the FA sent my paperwork to the wrong Congo," revealed Afobe, who is yet to make his full international debut for the country of his parents.

"Transferring it took about 10 days and once Fifa had cleared their workload with all the internationals on around the world, it was the day after the World Cup qualifier against Guinea.

"But, in order for me to get used to the squad and the conditions, it was worth making the trip and the team won 2-1.

"I was disappointed not to play at the time, but the main thing is returning to the club injury-free. Club always comes before country and right now, I want to be available for Bournemouth as much as possible."

Benik Afobe was talking to BBC Radio Solent's Kris Temple.

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