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Lee Bowyer - Overview
First appeared in the Observer Aug 2002 (with additions)

Lee Bowyer's highs and lows

Born: London, January 3 1977.

It was not obvious from the outset that Bowyer is a gifted footballer, he does not initially excel at the game at school. Samsur Chowdury, a classmate remembers him as, "a quiet kid, who kept himself to himself". 

Bowyer does however play for the Poplar based Senrab club which has produced the likes of Ray Wilkins, Sol Campbell and Muzzy Izzet, eventually coming to the attention of Charlton.

April 1994

Signs for Charlton Athletic, at 17 rather than West Ham, the club he supported as a boy. Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager rates Bowyer as the 'best teenage player I've ever seen'.

March 1995

Hits trouble after testing positive for marijuana in a random drug test. As a result he is banned by Charlton for 8 weeks and dropped from the England under 18 squad. 'I feel like I've let myself down and there's no need to do stupid things like that if you want to be a footballer. 'It was horrible but I'd made a mistake and I had to pay for it, didn't I.' The incident does not stop him becoming one of the most coveted young players in the English game playing 58 games for Charlton and scoring 14 goals.

May 1996

Gains his first England Under 21 cap; he would go on to win 13. 

July 1996

Moves to Leeds for 2.6 million after scoring 14 times for Charlton in 58 appearances. Then Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson says "this boy has exceptional talent. He can pass, score goals and he can run. He's got a bit of Denis Law about him."

December 1996

Fined 4500 after admitting to throwing chairs across a McDonald's restaurant after drinking with friends. Keith Grant, the magistrate, says he nearly jailed Bowyer for his part in the incident. 'This was a disgraceful incident,' he says. 'It took place in a public place. People were put in fear.' A Leeds spokesman states that Bowyer had shown 'true contrition' for the crime.


Bowyer's progress at Elland Road had initially been curtailed with the signing of two other midfielders, David Hopkin and Alf Inge Haaland. But during the 1998/9 season he supplants Hopkin in the side and is named Leeds' Player of the Season after plundering nine league goals.


Bowyer is a key figure as Leeds finish in third place in the 1999/2000 Premiership table and is nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.


Bowyer faces 2 years of uncertainty when he is accused along with teammates Tony Hackworth and Johnathan Woodgate of assaulting Asian student Sarfraz Najeib outside a Leeds nightclub. He will eventually be cleared of all charges.

January 2001- April 2001

The first trial starts in January but is abandoned in April after a prejudicial article is published in a Sunday newspaper.

Summer 2001

In 2000-01 he does not let his off-field worries affect his football, producing a number of commanding performances, particularly in Leeds' explosive Champions League run and he is rewarded by winning the Player of the Year trophy from Leeds players and supporters alike.

October 2001

Trial begins

December 2001

Bowyer is cleared of all charges following a two-month trial. 

However the club fines him four weeks wages for breaking drinking regulations. His initial refusal to pay the fine leads Leeds to place him on the transfer list until the dispute is resolved about ten days later.

On Radio 5, Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale is asked if, with hindsight, he would authorise O'Leary to buy Bowyer if the player were put up for sale by another club. "It is one question I was asked by our manager this week" Ridsdale said, "and, no, I would not."

February 2002

Banned for six matches by the FA after being found guilty of violent conduct and foul and abusive language.

June 2002

Bowyer confirms he will not be signing any new contract with Leeds:

"My decision not to sign a new deal has nothing to do with money, or me wanting to make a so-called career move.

"And I have no problem with the manager, the staff, my team-mates or the supporters, who have been the ones who have really stayed behind me throughout my time at Leeds.

"I know I will be fortunate to get such support elsewhere, but I feel I am being pushed out and was not surprised to hear that the chairman was placing me on the transfer list again.

"I have placed on record my thanks for the support he displayed during the trials, but his attitude seems to have changed over the past six months and I can only guess why that is.

"It has been said that I have wasted Leeds' time and that they never should have signed me. Those reports, along with other well documented statements and articles since the last trial, have led me to believe that the board genuinely do not want me to stay.

"I have read that there is supposed to be a great debt at Leeds, but I do not know if that is why this, and speculation about other players leaving, has arisen.

"All I know is that my advisors had only been in serious discussions with the chairman over the past two months and talks were moving to a conclusion. But my concerns had been growing for over six months and perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have voiced them before now.

"I can honestly say that I do not know where my future lies now. "There is nothing lined up with another club, but I feel it is in the best interest of both parties for me to move on."

July 2002

Looking for a fresh start Bowyer looks set to sign for Liverpool for 9 million but fails to agree personal terms with the club. A Liverpool club statement makes clear that "Manager Gerard Houillier was not convinced the player had either the hunger or desire to play for the club, qualities which are essential for any Liverpool player."


September 2002

Makes senior England debut in a friendly against Portugal at Villa Park, which finishes 1-1. Replaced after 62 minutes by Trevor Sinclair.

December 2002

Plays final game of his spell at Leeds, a 2-1 defeat at Elland Road to Malaga. His final stats for the club are 55 goals in 264 games (38 goals in 196 Premiership starts)

January 2003

Signs for West Ham United on a six month contract. Leeds receive 100k from the club whom Bowyer professed to support as a child.

It is the team I support and that is why I have come here 

"I said when I was to leave Leeds it was going to take something special - and there is nothing more special than to come to the team you have supported as a kid.

"I can't be any happier than I am at the moment.

"I am back with family and friends to play with the club I supported as a kid and I am going to try and help us avoid relegation.

"I think it is a good challenge and I wouldn't like to see the club go down so if I have got the chance to come here and help in any way I can I am going to do it - I am following my heart."

January 2003

Handed a six-match ban by Uefa following his stamp on Malaga midfielder Gerardo during a UEFA Cup tie in December 2002.

January 2003

Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson confirms to journalists that his club one of a number in the Premiership to approach Bowyer before he signed for West Ham.

May 2003

Released by West Ham on expiration of contract.

May 2003

Agrees to sign for Newcastle United on a free transfer.

Page last updated 24 June, 2009