Crafty midfielder Lee Bowyer may have been one of Football’s most colourful characters off the pitch, but on it he was just as fruitful, enjoying a lengthy career that spanned 18 years and six clubs.
However, what was his association with West Ham United? Why was he so popular amongst the Claret & Blue Army? And, more importantly, where is he now?
Born in Canning Town, East London, a young Bowyer always dreamed of being a Footballer, starting out his career with then Championship side Charlton Athletic.
Despite some controversy in his early playing days, the midfielder went on to hold down a regular place in the Addicks’ starting Xl, whilst being capped at youth level with England.
He would only ever gain one appearance for the Senior Three Lions team, this came in 2002 in a friendly at home to Portugal, coming on from the bench at Villa Park.
By this stage, the larger than life character had earned himself a move to another Top-Flight team in Leeds United for a fee of around £3 million, where he flourished.
He managed to bag the club’s Player of the Year twice just before the turn of the Century and featured in the Semi-Finals of both the Champions League and the UEFA Cup, despite more off-field issues and one notable incident involving teammate Jonathan Woodgate.
Bowyer went on to make over 200 appearances in white, scoring over 50 times from attacking midfield and writing his name into the club’s history books, but then in 2003, offers started coming in.
In the wake of a reported deal with Liverpool falling through, Glenn Roeder captured him on a short-term contract and brought him to Upton Park for six months.
Initially, he was not a popular choice with fans and he never got to win them over on the pitch either, an injury limiting him to under 10 showings in Claret & Blue, before he moved on with the club’s relegation to Newcastle United.
While his performances on the field were showing no signs of dropping in quality, his time at St James’ Park was dominated by an infamous bust-up with teammate Keiron Dyer in the middle of a game.
Bowyer was disciplined heavy for it and even charged with a Public Order Act, he left Newcastle after just three years returning to his native East London, under Alan Pardew and looking to improve on his previous spell.
Though his first campaign back with his boyhood team was blighted by yet more injuries, he was able to play a key role in what was dubbed “The Great Escape”, as the Hammers miraculously beat the odds to remain afloat in the Premier League.
Bowyer’s first strike for the Irons came in a home draw with Wigan Athletic at the start of the 2007/2008 season, netting again in September against Middlesbrough and then popping up with two goals and two assists in an away thrashing of Derby County.
However, they would be his last for the club, getting sent off against Birmingham City in his final match of 2007/2008 at the Boleyn Ground, ironically, the team he moved to the following winter, originally on loan.
Though by this point his powers were starting to fade, scoring in the League Cup and finding limited playing time under Gianfranco Zola, moving to the Midlands in January 2009 and making it permanent the following summer.
With his help, Birmingham were able to record their highest Top-Flight finish and he finally lifted the first Trophy of his career, the League Cup in 2011, moving to his Footballing resting place, Ipswich Town for the 2011/2012 campaign.
Here, Bowyer had one last notable moment in him, popping up for Town to net a late winner at Upton Park in September 2010, appearing nearly 30 times as Ipswich finished mid-table in the Championship.
With his playing career now over, Bowyer sought to fill his time with another Sport, fishing, opening up his own Fishing Pond in France, though the lure of Football couldn’t keep him away.
Having spent some time working with youth teams at Watford, in July of 2017, Bowyer was appointed Assistant Manager of former team Charlton and now has an exciting career in Management ahead of him.
Lee Bowyer may not have spent the best times of his career playing in his boyhood Claret & Blue, but he certainly has a firm place in the Hearts of West Ham fans, as one of a rare breed of Cult Heroes.