He has always been an incongruous sight at a club with West Ham’s fixation with the rich and famous. Robert Snodgrass, the wholehearted trier signed from Hull City, recorded two goals and an assist against Brighton on Saturday. West Ham being West Ham, it was still not enough to secure the three points. It was, though, an eloquent case to keep his place on the right flank.
Because West Ham now have a second winger signed from Hull. Jarrod Bowen is the £22 million (Dh105m) arrival, plucked from under Crystal Palace’s noses, who could debut at Manchester City on Sunday. It will cap a rise from non-league to face the Premier League champions.
If it is scarcely a typical West Ham signing, it is a deal – though not a fee – of the type David Moyes used to make for Everton, when he scouted Tim Cahill 25 times in the Championship before taking the plunge. It also helps in his stated aims. “I want it to be the vision for the club that we are looking to bring in young, attractive and hungry players,” he said last month.
But it is a tale of two relatively unglamorous managers. Steve Bruce unearthed Harry Maguire and Andy Robertson in his bargain-hunting for Hull.
Bowen was 17, playing for Hereford when they were expelled from the Conference in 2014, when Hull made their move. He was a beneficiary of City’s 2017 relegation from the Premier League. He scored in their first Championship game. His victims? Bruce’s Aston Villa. “I should have left him at Hereford,” Bruce rued. “He is a hell of a good player for £50,000. When we bought him in, he was a youngster, he was playing in a man’s league and doing very well. We didn’t hesitate.”
That goal was a sign of things to come. Along with Lewis Grabban, Bowen is the joint top scorer in the Championship in the last two-and-a-half years with 52 goals, 16 of them this term. Moyes has branded Bowen “a wide forward or an old-fashioned inside-right.” In a sense, though, he is a very modern player, an inverted winger who cuts in to shoot on his favoured left foot. Like Liverpool’s wingers, he is more scorer than supplier: indeed, he has just 12 assists besides those 52 goals. He is far more of a finisher than a creator.
The encouraging element for West Ham is that Bowen has already shown he can torment Premier League defences without scoring. He gave Marcos Alonso a torrid time when Chelsea won 2-1 at Hull in the FA Cup.
“That’s Jarrod. He’s been like that 95 times out of 100 for us this year,” said Hull manager Grant McCann, highlighting one piece of control. “I particularly liked that ball that he plucked out of the sky: tremendous touch.”
The difference will lie in his surroundings. Hull have been astute enough to build around Bowen. Short of funds, their strikers, Josh Magennis and Tom Eaves, have been self-sacrificial workhorses. West Ham, with a £45 million forward in Sebastien Haller, and a group of No. 10s, are less likely to prioritise an arrival from the lower leagues.
Hull have fed Bowen; only Leeds’ Patrick Bamford has had more shots in the Championship. Yet his primacy has come in part because of his attitude. “He has been unbelievable,” said McCann. “It is a rarity. I have seen it before where players get a sniff of bigger clubs coming in and they knock the manager’s door down.”
Hull were surprised they received no offers for Bowen last summer. By January, Leeds and Newcastle were also interested. West Ham moved, with Moyes stating simply: “We were attracted to the goals he scored.”