Non-League Day

Bowen: Hereford got me ready for life in Premier League

23 Mar 2023

West Ham winger explains how his time in non-league helped him to become a West Ham first-team player

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Ahead of Non-League Day on Saturday 25 March, we spoke to Premier League players who experienced first-hand playing the game beneath the top four divisions of the English football pyramid.

Jarrod Bowen (WHU)

When Bowen was a 17-year-old playing in a relegation battle for his boyhood club Hereford United, the prospect of playing in the Premier League and England must have seemed a million miles away.

He had already faced the disappointment of unsuccessful trials at Aston Villa and Cardiff City, so to make his senior breakthrough at Hereford was testament to his hard work and resilience.

It also provided the former Hull City winger, who is now at West Ham United, a pathway into the professional game.

"I only ever wanted football," says Bowen, who has gone on to make 120 Premier League appearances and score 25 goals in the competition.

"I didn't like school, I didn't really listen in school...I always wanted to be a footballer. I didn't want to do my GSCEs but I did them - it was just football, football, football!

"To then be told that football's not happening, of course, it's difficult, and it's hard, but it gets you ready for almost the real world of football as well because there's always so many disappointments in football with the highs [and lows] that you have."

Recalling his first senior goal for Hereford in a 3-2 home win over Alfreton Town, he adds: "It was a boyhood club. I used to go there every week, and to play and score at the famous Meadow End was special for me because all my friends were watching.

Jarrod Bowen. Hereford
Jarrod Bowen, aged 17, celebrates scoring his first senior goal for Hereford United

"It was only eight games, but the situation that Hereford were in at the end, a relegation battle, for me at the age of 17, it stood me in good stead because I had that non-league changing-room feel, what it means to win games and what's at stake."

With West Ham currently embroiled in a battle to avoid dropping out of the Premier League, Bowen's past experience could prove crucial with 12 matches remaining.

"I think anything that happens now you are ready to deal with it," he adds.

Hereford United are no longer in existence, but a new "phoenix" club, Hereford FC, formed in 2014, now play at the same Edgar Street stadium where Bowen made his first impact. 

They play in the sixth tier of the English football pyramid, the National League North, and will be facing King's Lynn on Non-League Day, 25 April. 

See: More Non-League Day stories

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