With West Ham flying high in the Champions League spots currently, it’s safe to say The Hammers are performing way above expectation. Finishing 6th last season felt like a one-off event, with David Moyes’ side routinely middle of the pack in the Premier League.
This season, they’re looking to go one better, to finish in that elusive final Champions League position. Their underdog status fits with the Hammers’ mentality perfectly, the group assembled by David Moyes committed to the cause without potential egos getting in the way.
Players in Claret and Blue have often succeeded, before looking elsewhere for the bigger pay-check – Marko Arnautovic and Dimitri Payet springing to mind. Now, with home wins over Liverpool and Chelsea in recent memory, the likes of Declan Rice and Michail Antonio are committed to delivering success to The London Stadium.
An integral piece of the puzzle for a daring West Ham side this season has been Jarrod Bowen, the former Hereford Town youth prospect now the lifeblood of an energetic West Ham group. Constantly running after the ball, his pace and application drives the Hammers forward whenever a counter-attack occurs.
Having to leave Hereford behind – his boyhood club going bust in 2014 – the pacey attacker hasn’t had the easiest ride. Succeeding with Hull after Hereford disbanded, his role for West Ham has seen him transition into a work-horse for Moyes’ men. Playing quick counter-attacking football under their revitalised boss, Bowen is typical of the high-flying Hammers this season.
Has this eagerness to succeed come from his boyhood club disbanding? Does he feel a need to ensure he makes every minute on the football pitch count? Jarrod will feel indebted to Hereford throughout his career, giving him his professional football debut at just 17 years of age.
Scoring his first – and only – goal for Hereford came shortly after, before news of the club folding and the youth set-up going left Bowen without a club. From a quiet and unassuming town in Herefordshire, Bowen born in Leominster, he would now have to find a new place to further his footballing ability.
Rejected by Aston Villa and Cardiff at an early age, Bowen would get another opportunity in the EFL with Hull City gambling on the youngster. Another club in turmoil to a degree, Hull’s owner Assem Allam controversial to say the least, Bowen would be used to the turbulent off-field situation engulfing The Tigers.
Bowen would make seven Premier League appearances for Hull in their Premier League campaign of 2016-17, a campaign soured by The Tigers starting the division with 12 fit senior professionals readily available. Losing popular manager Steve Bruce on the eve of this campaign, Hull would fall straight back down to the Championship.
This was arguably a blessing for Bowen, who came into his own in the second tier. Whilst the chaos only continued at the club – Hull finishing 18th, before relegation was sealed to League One two seasons after – Jarrod Bowen was a constant bright spark amongst choppy waters in Humberside.
His first goal for Hull City would come away at Aston Villa, an arrowed shot finding its way in past Sam Johnstone. His repertoire of goals for The Tigers showcased his natural ability to finish chances, sliding on the ground to finish a chance at QPR before heading in other opportunities in different matches.
A poacher by all accounts, but worthy of winning a match with a screamer all the same. Bowen would go on to win Supporter’s Player Of The Year and Player’s Player Of The Year for his new employers, his first full season in Humberside showcasing his raw talent.
With his hard work and determination, Bowen’s ability was a welcome distraction to discontent at the Allam ownership. His next two seasons would only see this ability come on leaps and bounds, constantly tireless in his pursuit of the ball to advance his Hull side.
After two years in the Tigers youth set-up, working on himself after signing from non-league, he was now the main man in orange and black. Hull’s 2019-20 season would see Bowen leave the MKM Stadium behind, opting for pastures new with The Tigers fearful of relegation to League One. Bowen’s commitment to the club never wavered, scoring 16 in 29 before departing.
His departure wouldn’t have come as a surprise to Hull supporters, Bowen a loyal servant in past messes. With the Tigers getting 22 million for Jarrod Bowen, West Ham had gambled on a player who had never played Premier League football in his career. Yet, Bowen had taken to the Championship like a duck to water after his Hereford career was cut short.
Bowen’s start at The Hammers was a slow burner, the 24-year-old making 13 appearances and scoring one goal. Not helped by West Ham’s precarious position in the table, finishing just above the relegation zone, Bowen’s start to his Hammers career hadn’t been that impactful.
He would be thrown in at the deep end the season after, making 33 appearances under the permanent guidance of David Moyes. This would begin the Moyes revolution at The London Stadium, a rejuvenation to The Hammers that was badly needed.
His goal-scoring ability was still there for Moyes’ team – 8 goals in 33 a decent return for your first full season in the top-flight – but his hunger to do the dirty work alongside finishing off chances won him various plaudits.
Now, in West Ham’s high-flying campaign so far this season, Jarrod Bowen is slowly becoming a star-man for yet another side. David Moyes’ set-up this season is suited to Bowen’s strengths as a footballer, playing on the counter-attack with sheer pace and desire to score when the opposition has been breached.
A marauding run from Bowen on opening day was an indicator of what was to come, various Newcastle shirts unable to stop Bowen from progressing. Winning 4-2 at St James’ Park, Bowen didn’t score but still contributed to the Hammers’ devastating attacking display in Tyneside.
Bowen has become a nuisance to play against, every full-back in the division knowing they’re in for a game if they’re marking West Ham’s number 20. The number 20’s finest goal of the season so far came in an impressive win for Moyes’ men, upsetting the odds and beating Chelsea 3-2 at The London Stadium.
Often a stadium that hasn’t felt like home for The Hammers’ faithful, performances like the Chelsea win have endeared even the most vocal dissenters. Hitting a hopeful drive at Mendy, the sheer power of the shot saw Bowen’s effort find the corner of the net.
Bowen is symptomatic of the fever engulfing The London Stadium this season – a never-say-die attitude, a togetherness that trumps individual talent and wins over pessimistic West Ham supporters. Moyes’ trusty 4-2-3-1 set-up complements his underdogs perfectly, Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek acting as anchors to The Hammers’ wealth of attacking talent.
Bowen is also complemented by the likes of Said Benrahma on the other channel, a tricky and skillful attacker that blends nicely with Bowen’s energy and application. With the lone forward of Jamaica international Michail Antonio in free-scoring form also, everything is running like clockwork for Moyes’ men.
The likes of Angelo Ogbonna even contribute with a goal every now and then, a Bowen corner finding the Italian to break the deadlock at Everton.
Murmurs are indicating that Bowen is wanted by Liverpool in the upcoming January transfer window, another attacking option when Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane depart for the AFCON. With the way Liverpool play also – quick attacking play with swift and deadly moves routinely finished off – Bowen could suit Klopp’s Reds.
However, with West Ham 5th at the moment even with recent injuries, Bowen should stick around with The Hammers for a little bit longer. From playing in non-league to now starring in the Premier League, the sky really is the limit for the 24-year-old. Next stop, the Champions League?
By: Kelan Sarson / @sarsonkelan
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Rob Newell – CameraSport