Ex-West Bromwich Albion forward Jonathan Leko outlines bold career ambitions after latest injury setback

Jonathan Leko appeared 15 times for West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League | Photo credit: Malcolm Couzens/Sportimage from Alamy
Jonathan Leko appeared 15 times for West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League | Photo credit: Malcolm Couzens/Sportimage from Alamy

The striker suffered the second ACL injury of his career on loan with Burton Albion last term but remains in positive spirits ahead of a testing recovery period.

A January loan move to Burton Albion provided a fresh start for Leko, who registered three goals and two assists with MK Dons throughout the first-half of the 2023/24 League Two season.

Therefore, he had been expected to aid Burton Albion’s fight against relegation from League One upon arrival. However, it was all over within a matter of days.

The 25-year-old only signed for the Brewers on January 26, but returned to Buckinghamshire after suffering a second ACL injury in the space of five years just moments into his debut against Cambridge United.

“It’s tough, especially the second time around,” Leko admitted, having suffered the same setback during a bright loan spell with then-Championship side Charlton Athletic.

Jonathan Leko scored five times for Charlton Athletic before suffering the first of his two ACL injuries in December 2019 | Photo credit: Action Foto Sport from Alamy
Jonathan Leko scored five times for Charlton Athletic before suffering the first of his two ACL injuries in December 2019 | Photo credit: Action Foto Sport from Alamy

“For two months I was down about it but I’m only starting recovery now.

“I can get through it. So far, I’m just trying to get back fit, nothing else.

“I haven’t thought ahead because of the injury so I’m taking it day-by-day. It’s going to be a long injury so there’s nothing I can do.

“I was there one day, I trained on the Friday and then the Saturday I came on and did it in two minutes,” he recalled.

“It’s frustrating, I came on at half-time for the second half.

“Kick-off, went long and then it went across to the other side of the pitch. Someone’s crashed in, I thought ‘ah look, I can score, and I’ve just clattered with the keeper’.

“As I’ve clattered with him, I didn’t really know where I was landing. As I’ve landed, I just heard my knee click.

“It was exactly the same as the first one, I just knew straight away.

“To be fair, I tried to carry on as well because maybe it could’ve been something else. But as I tried to run, I thought ‘yeah, I’m done’”.

The striker, who can also play out wide, dropped to the fourth-tier with MK Dons for the first time in his career last season, having previously turned out in the Premier League and the Championship.

He departed on permanent terms to sign for local rivals Birmingham City in August 2020, but a difficult spell followed. Leko only returned one goal from 50 appearances for Blues and was sold to MK Dons last January.

MK Dons forward Jonathan Leko struggled for form with Birmingham City | Photo credit: News Images LTD from Alamy
MK Dons forward Jonathan Leko struggled for form with Birmingham City | Photo credit: News Images LTD from Alamy

At 25, Leko faces a mission to restart his career and successfully recover from yet another significant spell on the treatment table.

He could be forgiven for having dampened spirits. Instead, though, his mentality displays optimism and ambition for the future.

Leko said: “Nine months from now, I should be back in January hopefully if everything goes well, God willing.”

Supporting MK Dons’ likely promotion push next season is unsurprisingly on his mind, too.

The side finished last season in fourth position and appeared well-placed to navigate through the League Two playoffs, although Mike Williams’ men were left humiliated after losing to Crawley Town by an aggregate score of 8-1 across two legs.

But following the promotions of big-spending duo Wrexham and Stockport County, there is hope that the Dons may find themselves in a better position to achieve promotion in the 2024/25 campaign.

“It was sad that we missed out on promotion, we’ve got a good team so I think we’re going to be up there,” Leko said of their ambitions next term.

“You need to be positive and think of the best outcome. You can’t be too down.”

A positive mentality runs through Leko, who cannot be faulted for a lack of ambition or self-belief when assessing objectives for the rest of his career

“You’ve got to believe,” he explained. “I want to win something, whether that will be Prem (Premier League), Championship, League One or League Two.

“I want to get all the way back to the Prem, that’s my ambition. I still feel like I’m good enough to get back up there.

“It’s just opportunity and work-rate, doing all you can.”

While returning to English football’s top-flight may prove difficult for Leko, his positive mentality will undoubtedly keep him in good stead as he continues his recovery moving forward.