Jarrod Bowen: ‘I know how good I can be – it’s starting to come into place’ | West Ham United

Jarrod Bowen is used to setbacks. The West Ham winger almost gave up on his dream of becoming a professional footballer after an unsuccessful trial at Cardiff when he was 16 and the Premier League felt a long way away when he went six months unpaid at non-league Hereford. “The journey I’ve been on, nearly giving up and scoring in the Conference and then being at Hull, it’s been a bit crazy when you break it down,” he says.

“I had a lot of obstacles to overcome when I was younger. Anything that comes in my way now, I’m ready to take it on.”

There is an inner steel to Bowen, who has been one of the best forwards in the Premier League this season. The 25-year-old, who hopes West Ham can revive their push for Champions League football by beating Wolves on Sunday, laughs when he thinks back to the treatment he got from non-league defenders. “I was 16, 17,” he says. “You’ve got players that have played hundreds of Football League games, coming to the end of their careers, coming down the leagues.

“You see this sharp little youngster and they just want to kick him and welcome him to the real world. It comes with the territory. When you are that young, you are thinking: ‘Jesus, what’s his problem?’”

Did he ever think of telling his dad, Sam, that the physicality was too much? “No, because if I’d said that to him he’d punch me straight on the ear and tell me to man up a bit. I don’t think you can escape it, especially if you’re a winger and you want to take people on.

“Defenders feel like you’re taking the mick out of them when you are trying to dribble past them, so they just want to kick you into the top of the stand. You probably don’t get used to it. You don’t settle for it, but you accept that it’s going to be a weekly occurrence.”

Bowen, whose big chance arrived when Hull signed him in 2014, is down to earth and speaks fondly of his upbringing in Leominster, Herefordshire. “The way of life back home is very country-orientated. There’s a lot of farms. There’s a lot of routes you can go and football isn’t usually a route that you go down. Moving away at 17 and being dedicated to doing what I wanted to do helped me.”

He thinks about his family’s farming heritage. “I would like a farm,” he says. “But then I speak to my uncle. My grandad’s retired now and my uncle has his own farm. It looks like too much hassle. The thought of it – ‘Oh yeah, I want a farm’ – is better than the actual reality.”

Jarrod Bowen scores for West Ham against Watford this month
Jarrod Bowen scores for West Ham against Watford this month. Photograph: Tony Obrien/Reuters

Still, the country life has helped his football. Last summer, Bowen’s dad, who played non-league football, helped his son bulk up by getting him to push wheelbarrows full of cement around potato fields. “He’s a bit of a mad man,” Bowen says. “What he wants to do is old-school. I’m nearly in tears at the end of it because it’s that hard.

“He usually gets me on a hill with a mixer at one end and me with a wheelbarrow. I run down and fill it up. On the way down it’s lovely because it’s empty, so you take your time on the way down. It’s just when you have to go back up it’s horrible because your arms are down here with cement. He has some strange techniques that he gets me doing in the summer, but obviously it has worked.”

It is hard to disagree. Bowen, whose performances in the Championship for Hull convinced West Ham to sign him two years ago, has elevated his game this season. Dangerous when he cuts in from the right to use his brilliant left foot, he has eight goals and eight assists in the league and has been compared to Mohamed Salah.

“I know how good I can be and I think it’s all starting to come into place,” says Bowen, who calls Salah the best player in the world. “At the start of the season I was playing well and not scoring or getting assists, but I kept myself going. I’ve had a bit of luck with a couple of goals recently. That’s what happens when you stick at it.

“I can probably be better. There’s plenty more goals I could have scored. I’m probably talking about 15 goals already. I’m hard on myself.”

That thirst for improvement could earn Bowen his first England call-up next month. For now, though, the focus is on West Ham. Their league form has been mixed, but they are sixth before hosting Wolves, visit Southampton in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday and have drawn Sevilla in the last 16 of the Europa League.

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There is a lot to play for and Bowen, who joined West Ham when they were in a relegation battle, is taking it in his stride. It is almost two years to the day since he scored his first goal for West Ham, a fine chip against Southampton, and he just wants to keep progressing. “I never get too carried away,” he says. “My old man would be straight down the motorway if I ever got ahead of myself.”

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