Jarrod Bowen: From Playing Without Pay to Scoring for Fun at Hull
Wednesday, 23 January, 2019 - 06:45
Jarrod Bowen has been in irresistible goalscoring form for the resurgent Tigers. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images
London - Ben Fisher
At the start of December, when Hull were in the Championship relegation zone, it would have been easy for the club, in a city synonymous with cream-coloured telephone boxes, to raise the white flag. Fast-forward seven weeks and Nigel Adkins’s side are the country’s form team, suddenly looking up rather than down. Six league wins on the bounce have propelled them to within four points of the play-offs, while the maligned vice-chairman, Ehab Allam, has spoken of renewed optimism. It has been a concerted team effort but no player has been more instrumental than Jarrod Bowen, who has scored nine goals in his past eight matches.Hull have done some shrewd business in recent years – handsomely profiting from the sales of Harry Maguire and Andy Robertson to Leicester City and Liverpool respectively – but, considering they did not pay a penny for Bowen in July 2014 after he left the now defunct Hereford United, the 22-year-old forward may well top the lot. Before arriving in east Yorkshire Bowen held talks with West Bromwich Albion and Wolves but joined Hull, for whom he made his Premier League debut three years ago, after impressing the then academy manager and now first-team coach, Tony Pennock. He is not the only one flying the flag for Hereford in the Football League, with Sam Clucas at Stoke and Marley Watkins at Bristol City.
Bowen, a workaholic with a sweet left foot and an insatiable appetite for goals, has scored five in his past three matches, in which Hull have hit 11 without reply. With 13 goals in this campaign, he is three away from eclipsing last season’s tally with four months of the season to play. On Saturday he will try to build on those numbers at Villa Park, against the team who rejected him at the age of 10 and at the stadium where he scored his first Hull goal last season, sending his watching family into frenzy in the away end. Bowen’s journey is a refreshing tale, from cleaning boots and sweeping changing rooms at Edgar Street to being eulogised in front of tens of thousands.
Less than five years ago a 17-year-old Bowen was part of the Hereford team that defeated Welling in front of 480 spectators at the tail end of a season that was followed by the club’s expulsion from the fifth tier for failing to pay creditors and, a few months later, by their liquidation. He had signed for Hereford as a scholar shortly after joining the youth team – led by the former Bristol Rovers striker Peter Beadle – following a six-week trial at Cardiff City. Bowen impressed in the FA Youth Cup, helping Hereford to the fourth round, where a Manchester City team including Angus Gunn prevailed in extra time. When Martin Foyle resigned as manager in March 2014 with the club haemorrhaging money, Beadle assumed caretaker charge for the last eight games and threw in Bowen at the deep end: he made his debut at Barnet and scored what proved the winner against Alfreton as Hereford won three of their final five matches.
“He acquitted himself extremely well,” Beadle says. “Every game he got stronger. Jarrod has a lot of qualities but the one I really like is that he understands what he needs to do to play in a certain environment. The first day or two, he had to get up to speed in the first team but, very quickly, he was aware of what he needed to do and put it into practice. He had a hand in keeping the club up [before their expulsion], which was an amazing achievement when you think those players were not being paid. He took to it all like a duck to water.”
As a scholar, Bowen was hardly earning megabucks (around £70 a week) but he too went without. He was thrust into a relegation fight in an increasingly toxic atmosphere, a result of a growing discord between fans and his troubled local club; Bowen was born 13 miles up the A49, in Leominster. “Nobody was getting paid, playing staff or management staff,” Beadle says. “How many players these days would have stayed and played for nothing, for their own futures? Not many would have done that but they did. For Jarrod to go through that at that age, and he has also been a part of a relegation from the Premier League, that would have been tough.
“To watch the team that he had a soft spot for as a kid crumble around him and fall away must have been desperately hard for him at 16 and 17. To then be brave enough and say: ‘I’m going to move away from home’, and probably about as far away as he could, to earn a career in football says a lot. He has seen lots of highs and lots of lows that will all stand him in good stead because he knows how good it can be but also how bad things can get.”
The Guardian Sport