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Irish Hammer 10:56 Mon Feb 21
Decent Arricle on Jarrod Bowen.
Decent read on our Breakthrough player this season

Skillage in the village’, wheelbarrows and England – watching Jarrod Bowen with his dad

It is stoppage time and West Ham United’s afternoon of frustration is almost complete. Jarrod Bowen’s attempts to keep the ball in play have gone unrewarded and a gallop down the right is abruptly ended by Dan Burn’s wild, sliding challenge. Nothing is being left to chance.

Yet if Newcastle United’s centre-back is contrite, he is afforded no time to apologise. Bowen is straight up on his feet and seeking retribution. The mismatch in height between Burn and Bowen — not far off a foot — does not appear to have been given a moment’s thought.

Seven rows back in the West Stand, almost in line with the flashpoint, Sam Bowen is grinning. “No reverse gear,” says Jarrod’s father, approvingly. “He’s never been afraid of a challenge.”

This was not Bowen’s afternoon — Newcastle left with a 1-1 draw that has dented West Ham’s top-four ambitions — but it is very much his season.

Eight goals and eight assists have already made this his most productive campaign in the Premier League, with only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah directly involved in more goals across the entire division. Bowen is now knocking loudly on the door for a first England call-up next month.

The 25-year-old has come an awfully long way to this point. Both Aston Villa and Cardiff City did not see enough during an early upbringing in academy football before Hereford United, in their final weeks before extinction, provided Bowen with his first taste of senior football as a 17-year-old.

Then came Hull City, five years of progress and a £22 million move to West Ham, where he is now flourishing. Dad Sam, younger brother Harry and his Uncle Ben have been a constant on the journey and were all there again on Saturday for Newcastle’s visit to the London Stadium, along with cousin Will and best friend Lewis. The Athletic has been invited in their minibus to the ground and is the only one on board without a thick Herefordshire accent.

Bowen’s prolific run of seven goals in seven games was not to be extended once goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had pushed a first-half shot onto the crossbar, but there was no less pride from the family watching on.

From left to right, Bowen’s dad Sam, uncle Ben and brother Harry
“It wasn’t to be this time but he’s established himself now,” says Sam. “We’re getting used to seeing him score and we’re starting to see the player he was at Hull City, full of confidence and comfortable in his surroundings.

“He’s settled, he’s got a smile on his face and a football at his feet. What more can you ask for? It’s what Saturdays are made for, isn’t it? You travel all around the country and you’re watching him achieving his dreams.

“It’s the parent in me but I think back to the five-year-old running around in the back garden with his glasses on. The ugly duckling that turned into the swan.”

The Bowen story begins where his family remain, at home in rural Herefordshire. “We’re 40 minutes from the nearest motorway, so you’re packing a picnic wherever we go, to be honest,” laughs Sam. “Never leave without a Thermos.”

They travelled through Storm Eunice on Friday from Leominster, eight or so miles from the Welsh border. That was the small market town where Bowen was born and moulded: an upbringing in the great outdoors.

“There was worse off than us but we’re a working-class family,” explains Bowen senior. “We like to think we’re a family who’ve got rough hands, who aren’t afraid to roll up our sleeves and work hard. J has that.”

It is always J, never Jarrod. And it has always been football.

“He’d honestly spend hours in the garden,” Sam adds. “He’d do your head in. He used to watch Soccer AM, doing all that Skill Skool stuff. He’d be giving it ‘skillage in the village’, winding me up with his tricks.

“I’m sure other parents would say the same but he’d have a football at his feet all the time. Inside, outside, in front of the TV. Jarrod didn’t have teddies, he had footballs. He’d take them to bed with him.”

Not that his eventual ascent was always preordained.

“Jarrod used to play with another lad who was the most elegant runner. So nice on the eye. J was none of that. If the other lad was a Ferrari, J was a Land Rover 90. But even then he’d still be scoring goals. That’s never changed. And you can’t teach that.”

Bowen senior had his own goalscoring exploits in non-league football, playing as a centre-forward with clubs including Merthyr Tydfil, Worcester, Forest Green Rovers and Newport County.

He says he had fallen out of love with the game at 26 (“I maybe had too much to say, perhaps a bit pig-headed”) but is indebted to Bowen’s mother, Natalie, for providing the support that saw his eldest son sent on his way with Leominster Minors, his local club. Bowen’s parents separated when he was 10. “She played such a large role in those early years, taking him to all these different things like soccer tots and futsal,” explains Sam. “I wasn’t always able to be around due to work and football commitments, but she was.”

There was Jamie Edwards, too, then a community development officer for Hereford and now with Shrewsbury Town. “He played an instrumental role with J. He gave him so many opportunities.”

Aston Villa had been made aware of Bowen’s promise and invited him to join their academy at the age of 10. Three times a week they would make the three-hour round-trip to Bodymoor Heath, only to be eventually told others would be preferred.

“If I had my time again I wouldn’t have sent him up there,” says Sam. “I saw Aston Villa and thought you had to take the chance, even when he was 10 and 11. He should’ve just been enjoying his football at that age. He’d get a nosebleed leaving Herefordshire back then. Did he need picking up? Absolutely. That knocked him for a good six months.

“He went to Cardiff at under-16s as well and that was another setback. He was there from Christmas to the end of the season at under-16s but they didn’t want him. He went back to Hereford and that’s where it all started for him.”

Hereford, now reformed and playing in National League North, remain one of the first scores Bowen searches for after growing up supporting his boyhood club. Uncle Ben, one of his biggest supporters, is now a groundsman at Edgar Street.

A handful of appearances in the National League aged 17 included Bowen’s first goal and, once financial problems consumed Hereford in the summer of 2014, there were chances offered around the country. Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers were all options before the Bowens chose Hull.

“We didn’t want J to become just another number and that was a concern with some of the clubs that showed an interest,” explains Sam. “And we wanted him to go far enough away that he wouldn’t be home every weekend. It was important he stood on his own two feet.

“He left home when he was 17 and travelled three and a half hours up the road on his tod. He was chucked in at the deep end and that’s what helped him grow up and find that dedication.”

You can take the boy out of Herefordshire but every summer he returns. And, at times, it is reluctantly. Father and son (more father) have devised a pre-season training ritual that sees Bowen junior turning tractor tyres over, loading cement into a wheelbarrow and running through a potato field for hours on end.

The grin is back at the mention of it. “I love it, I just love seeing him struggling!” says Sam. “We’re in these potato fields where they rotovate some of it around the edges. It’s like sand at the right time of year and he just looks at me as though it’s, ‘Not this again’.

“I’m not sure he likes me much when we have him doing all that. Is it about fitness? No, not really. A little bit, maybe. But it’s more about upstairs. Do not give up. You can’t give in. You just can’t. Is it the answer? I’ve no idea but I’ll have the copyright if it is.”

Bowen’s football career came of age during five and a half years in East Yorkshire. After playing against Declan Rice’s West Ham United in the final of the Under-21s Premier League Cup final in 2016, he went on to score 54 goals in 131 senior appearances with Hull.

Bowen spent more than half a decade at Hull. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan – CameraSport via Getty Images)
None of those were celebrated quite like the first though, an equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Villa on the opening day of the 2017-18 season. Sam, Harry and younger sister Ella were all there to see Bowen’s crisp, volleyed finish.

“I fractured my ankle that day,” says Bowen senior. “I must’ve been 10 rows back when he scored and obviously went mad. I made the first five rows in control but then I was full tilt going south.

“I still managed to hop to him! His first goal. It was just surreal. He didn’t have a clue where we were but it was like a parting of the waves, me and Harry just got to him.”

There was a bit more calmness to Saturday lunchtime. There was an instinctive punch of the air when Bowen’s shot came back off the bar midway through the first half and words of encouragement from Dad. “Go on J, go on J, he don’t want you” came in the midst of one driving run.

Bowen, in truth, found himself tightly shackled by Newcastle’s well-drilled defence. The space he had found in the opening half gradually diminished as the visitors retreated deeper after the break and openings were in short supply. The altercation with Burn at least underlined an enduring commitment and also brought the Newcastle defender down off the team bus outside to offer his apologies to Bowen. The hug that followed suggested no hard feelings.

So, on days like these, what makes Bowen’s family proud? “He’s humble, he’s honest and he’s got desire,” says Sam. “That’s what I like about J. He’s had that upbringing in non-league football. He’s had to battle, he’s had the knocks, he’s cleaned boots at Hereford. He’s done it old-school but to me that’s still the proper way. He’s never been mollycoddled and you can see that in him.”

Perhaps Burn, himself a National League player with Darlington 10 years ago, liked that, too.

Burn and Bowen clash at the London Stadium (Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images)
The greater imponderable is whether Gareth Southgate does. Bowen has been told via his West Ham boss David Moyes that he is getting ever closer and has timed a rich vein of form to coincide with England’s friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast at the end of next month.

“Should that arise, then brilliant,” says Sam, who scoffs at the suggestion his surname and geographical upbringing might leave scope for Wales instead. “If it doesn’t then so be it. I think he’s done himself no harm with his form. He’s given himself half a chance. I think he’d be disappointed if it didn’t come soon because he’ll know he’s not far off.

“We’ll just have to see on that one. It would be great. It would be great for us as a family but also Herefordshire. We’re a bit far out of the way and he’s got half a chance of making Herefordshire people proud.

“He won’t sulk if it doesn’t happen, you’ve just got to work harder. Don’t have that reverse gear, like we said earlier. Don’t let it beat you.”

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Thanks Irish 12:43 Mon Feb 21
Re: Decent Arricle on Jarrod Bowen.
Thanks Irish

charleyfarley 12:03 Mon Feb 21
Re: Decent Arricle on Jarrod Bowen.
Another beaut Irish thanks for that read

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