Nahki Wells back in contention after Covid-related absence
Nahki Wells is expected to be back in the Bristol City squad for the trip to South Wales to face Swansea City in the Sky Bet Championship tomorrow.
The Bermuda striker’s surprise absence from the squad for the midweek defeat of relegation-threatened Reading was described by Bristol Live and, subsequently, the Robins website as “Covid-related”.
It came at a time when the 31-year-old, having netted as a late substitute in the 3-1 defeat away to Blackpool on February 5, might have figured to play a greater role after months in the wilderness in Nigel Pearson’s plans.
The manager, who missed the Reading match for undisclosed medical reasons, was non-committal yesterday when asked if Wells would figure in the Sunday lunchtime kick-off at the Swansea.com Stadium.
“Maybe he will, maybe he won’t” was the most definitive response Pearson gave when questioned in the press conference about Wells’s availability, despite the player’s return to training.
He added: “Covid, we can’t just put one outcome suits everybody. We’ve seen players struggle to return to form from it, we’ve seen players who have no ill effects. And if you open that up to the wider population, I think that happens to everybody. So we can’t just make the assumption that players who experience Covid can shake it off in three or four days. It may be another month before it hits them, we don’t know. That’s the unpredictability of the situation.”
Wells, who was the subject of a failed loan bid by Cardiff City during the January transfer window, has scored only two goals this season after leading the City charts in 2020-21. Much of his time on the sidelines has to do with the return to full fitness of Chris Martin as well as the emergence of Antoine Semenyo, whose recent form earned him the Championship Player of the Month Award for January.
Assistant manager Curtis Fleming empathised with Wells’s lack of minutes but praised the Bermudian’s professionalism as he waits in the pecking order behind an attacking triumvirate that includes Andreas Weimann.
“Everyone’s talking about the attacking threat we have and [Nahki’s] been unlucky because they’ve been a real threat, the three of them,” Fleming said in the build-up to the Reading match.
“He’s been waiting for his chance, he’s trained well, Nahki. I think everyone was thinking he’s going to go here or going to go there in January, and he’s stuck to his training and he’s done his stuff.”
Wells, who has a year left on his contract at Ashton Gate, has scored 144 goals in his English career — most prolifically over a 3½-year spell with Huddersfield Town — and retains a reputation in the second tier as a finisher.
“He got a chance to come on [against Blackpool] and gets us a goal, so we know what Nahki offers us,” Fleming added. “The best thing for us is that he’s been happy, he’s come out and said [after the transfer deadline] ʽI’m here now. At the end of the day, he has to knuckle down and play — and he did.
“He didn’t come on and sulk. He made an impact; that’s what you want from your substitutes. And for him there’s nothing better than scoring.”