Jarrod Bowen reveals how he got super-fit sprinting in his uncle’s potato field and lugging a wheelbarrow full of muck! Now he’s West Ham’s cream of the crop as he looks to push Hammers into the top-half
- Jarrod Bowen has been a key figure for West Ham since scoring on his debut
- He joined from Hull City back in January and played 12 times for the Hammers
- The 23-year-old is very keen to push the Hammers back into the league’s top 10
Jarrod Bowen spent some of his pre-season on a Greek island and some of it in his uncle’s potato field.
Born in Hereford into a family of farmers 23 years ago, the West Ham forward returns home each summer for a bespoke fitness programme put together by his father Sam.
‘I call it my old man’s boot camp,’ said Bowen this week, laughing. ‘Usually we have two weeks at it hard before my club pre-season and it’s very old school.
Jarrod Bowen signed for West Ham in January and has impressed since his £18m move
‘The worst one is a wheelbarrow full of muck that I have to push up a hill, empty it and carry back. I have to do that again and again for an hour. Dragging tractor tyres is another one — though we didn’t do that one this year.
‘This summer it was mainly running in my uncle Stu’s potato fields. The ground is so heavy it’s like running on sand and means that when you finally get back to grass it feels like a breeze.
‘Dad is a real country boy and has loads of ideas. I could say “no” I guess but he says that nobody else will be doing it and he has a point. It’s just an hour a day, isn’t it? Get out there and get it done.’
Bowen is preparing for the start of the biggest season of his young career. His profile as a Premier League footballer is low enough for him to have had a week on the island of Mykonos last month without receiving any undue attention and that suited him.
But if things go well from now on, much of that could change. Signed from Hull in January for £18million, Bowen scored inside 15 minutes on his home debut against Southampton and was a key figure as David Moyes’ team avoided relegation.
Bowen was a key figure as he helped West Ham pick up their form and avoid relegation
Moyes has spoken of his desire to change the culture at West Ham. No longer does the Scot want expensive foreign players cashing in on good wages and the chance to live in London. Instead, Moyes wants hungry footballers keen to prove themselves, and Bowen appears to fit into that casting.
‘My game is about hard work,’ Bowen said. ‘Passion is what this club thrives on and that should be a given. It suits me really well. That’s my game.
‘When I signed I knew how big the club was and how big a jump it is for me. But they have put faith in me and I want to repay that. That first goal was unbelievable. What a feeling. But there is no way I see myself as an established Premier League player. It will take two or three years of consistency before I can say that.’
A Manchester United fan as a kid, Bowen played in a Hull side who ran United close in a League Cup semi-final two and a half years ago.
At one point he realised he was a little starstruck standing between Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At full-time, he was too nervous to ask for a shirt.
‘I was worried they might say no,’ he recalled. It’s a nice story, but equally Bowen knows such an attitude cannot endure. It is time to feel that he belongs.
‘I was 19 or 20 back then and suddenly was playing superstars,’ he explained. ‘It was different. These days I back myself.
‘I am still going to look at them when I see them in the tunnel. But now it’s my job. I am in this league. I’m going to be playing superstars every week, we both want to beat each other. I can’t be starstruck.’
Hull City missed Bowen who scored 16 goals before he was sold and went on to be relegated
Bowen’s career was almost over before it began.
Cast adrift when Hereford’s youth team was disbanded eight years ago, he spent six weeks training at Cardiff before he was rejected. Briefly, the wilderness beckoned.
‘My dad took the call from Cardiff and I just cried,’ Bowen told Sportsmail. ‘I didn’t know what would happen. I hadn’t really tried at school as all I wanted was football.
‘But suddenly that was it. No football. I don’t know what would have happened to me. Maybe I would have worked in a gym or something.
‘But every footballer needs a slice of luck and mine came when Hereford started that team up again. I went back.’
Bowen’s fortune was actually twofold. Not only was he back at the club but his former youth team manager Peter Beadle — currently managing at Barnet — was promoted to the senior job.
In time, he took a 17-year-old Bowen with him and YouTube footage of his first goal, against Alfreton, is illuminating. The only thing purer than the first-time left-foot shot is the subsequent celebration.
‘I always watch it because I can pause the video at a certain point and there are eight of my friends who are all on top of me as I celebrate in the crowd,’ he said.
‘We used to go to all the games as 13-year-olds. It was a pound to get in and we used to go in the end where I scored my first goal.
‘I had a shot a few minutes before that went for a corner and looked up and saw all my mates in the crowd laughing at me.
‘I thought if I scored there was only one direction I was running in. That was my dream, to score for my hometown club, and I managed to do that. That was good enough for me.’
The closeness of family and friends is a theme of Bowen’s career. His father has been heavily involved in all his decisions and celebrated his son’s first goal for Hull at Aston Villa by jumping four rows down the away section to try to reach the position where his daughter was sitting.
‘I wish I had a photo of his ankle,’ Bowen said. ‘It was the size of two tennis balls. I think the adrenaline got to him and he just lost it.
‘He likes the normal seats, not the glamour. He is not about that.
Bowen became the first players to score on his Hammers debut since Kevin Nolan back in 2012
‘For the Southampton game I gave him one of my player tickets and he came wearing shorts, broken old trainers and an old coat.
‘But he doesn’t care what people may think. He is the same dad he was 20 years ago when I was a little boy playing football with him. Nothing has changed just because I am in the Premier League and I think that mindset has rubbed off on me.’
Bowen Snr tells a story of how he could have signed for West Ham from Merthyr Tydfil in the 1990s. The move fell through and he remained forever a non-League player. His son doesn’t know all the details but is happy to believe it. These days, he likes to think he has inherited his father’s appetite for hard work and doggedness.
When he made the move from Hull in January, it was his dad who packed his son’s belongings into a white van and drove them to the capital. Bowen’s best friend from school, Lewis, was on board that day and has remained.
‘Coming to a London club was a huge decision,’ explained Bowen. ‘I had never really been here much and I knew I had to feel settled and well off the pitch. But it’s gone really well.
‘I told Lewis he may have to come for lockdown as I didn’t want to be here on my own. That would have driven me up the wall and there weren’t many opportunities for him with work back home anyway.
‘So that’s worked well for both of us. We got a gym put in the house. Lots of Call of Duty played during lockdown. The electric bill is going to be huge.’
You don’t have to be a West Ham player long to understand what is expected. A repeat of last season’s relegation fight, for example, will not be acceptable.
Bowen is looking forward to some consistency, something more settled than his career has offered so far. He was successful at Hull but played for five different managers.
‘There was always the question mark of whether the manager liked me, with new players coming in and all that,’ he recalled. ‘It was just change, change, change. All my career it was like that. Now I have moved to bigger and better things and am looking forward to getting started properly and settled.
‘The way we played post-lockdown showed a lot of good performances. That’s the aim now. A club like this deserves to be in the top half. There is no reason why we can’t do that.’
Expecting to play on the right flank in Moyes’ attacking line–up, Bowen knows that he is a bit of a throwback and is proud of it.
It is less common for players to come up through the pyramid and into the Premier League these days and he feels he and his old Hull team-mate Andy Robertson — now a Premier League and Champions League winner with Liverpool — have served notice that it can still be done.
Bowen is determined to help the Hammers push their way up the table and get a top-10 finish
‘It’s a case of people being willing to take a risk or a chance on players, isn’t it?’ he said.
‘Liverpool took a risk on Robbo and people wrote him off when he signed. But look at him now, one of the best left backs in the world.
‘So people think there is a massive difference in the standards of the Championship and Premier League and they worry about signing players with no top-flight experience.
‘That’s understandable but me and Robbo have benefited from clubs taking that risk.
‘It can still be done, that journey. It doesn’t matter how many setbacks you have.
‘I had a lot along the way but it makes the story a bit more special for me. When I look back and think where I have come from, it’s a privilege.
‘Eight years ago it was not looking as though this would happen. I didn’t even think I would be playing football. But I am in the Premier League. I will do whatever it takes to stay here