It’s a return the football this week and Friday’s Forgotten Footballer is former Premier League midfielder, Lee Bowyer. When his name is mentioned he is a man who can be remembered for many things but his quality as a footballer is something that can easily be forgotten.
During the Premier League there have been few better goal scoring midfielders from open play and Bowyer also delivered amongst Europe’s elite when Leeds United got all the way to the Champions League semi-final.
At his best, Bowyer was a brilliant footballer but he was often tarnished by off-field problems and was a man who often featured on the front page of British tabloids as opposed to the back pages. He was involved in trouble both on and off the field of play and unfortunately it’s for these reasons that he will be remembered as opposed to his footballing ability.
It was at Leeds United that Bowyer showed what he could do as a footballer. He enjoyed seven great years there as a player despite a few court appearances during that time.
Bowyer’s main qualities were his passionate style of play and his ability to score goals from midfield. He was also good at set-pieces and was at the heart of the team when Leeds regularly featured in the ‘top 4’ and even the title race from time to time. They mixed amongst the league’s best and Bowyer along with the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Fowler brought very good days to Elland Road. We all know what has happened to Leeds over the last few years in what is almost a tragedy in certain ways. It was ironic that Bowyer’s career took a similar path.
Bowyer’s biggest off-field incident involved teammate Jonathan Woodgate in the year 2000. Both players were involved in an assault outside a nightclub when the victim was left with serious injuries. Both players were charged and the whole process dragged out before sentences were finally issued. While Woodgate hardly played during this time, Bowyer thrived when many could have been heavily restricted. Football seemed to prove a great distraction as he scored six goals on Leeds’s run to the Champions League semi-final. These goals included winners against AC Milan and Barcelona. His Leeds career ended in 2003 and it’s safe to say that he never reached his heights again.
He initially moved to a struggling West Ham, his childhood club, on a six-month deal in an attempt to drive their run to safety in the Premier League. But Bowyer had very little impact and West Ham subsequently got relegated. He was a free agent that summer in 2003 and moved to Newcastle. It had the potential to be a very good move, but again Bowyer failed to have a big impact at the Toon Army. He spent three years at Newcastle where he will only really be remembered for his on-field punch-up with teammate Kieron Dyer. In a home game against Aston Villa, both players fought on the field in the middle of the game with both receiving red-cards and simply disgracing themselves.
Following that incident, the baggage the accompanied Bowyer was almost deemed to be too heavy. Despite his potential to be an asset, he always appeared to end up being a liability. He returned to West Ham after finishing at Newcastle. Spells with Birmingham City and Ipswich Town followed. His stint at Birmingham was some bit of a success where he won the League Cup and showed his goal scoring touch at times. He still had many discipline problems at one stage he held the record as the highest card recipient in the Premier League.
Bowyer’s career was not a total failure but he could have been remembered very differently. The reason why Bowyer could be considered a Forgotten Footballer, is because people will forget what a quality player he was when at his best. Too much is forgotten about Lee Bowyer which is a real shame. He will always be remembered for the wrong reasons.
When people ask; ‘what ever happened to Lee Bowyer?’, the answers will all be based around his fighting and misbehaviour and very little will be said about the player who wore his heart on his sleeve and provided multiple goals from midfield.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.