It must be difficult enough coming up against Liverpool’s left back Andy Robertson even once or twice a season, but to face him every day, as Jarrod Bowen did when the pair were together at Hull, is close to purgatory.
Bowen, West Ham’s £22million January transfer deadline-day signing, survived that considerable challenge and has since utilised the resilience gained to good effect.
The 23-year-old winger came up against his former team-mate when he came on as a substitute in West Ham’s 3-2 defeat at Anfield on Monday and he said: “I spoke to Robbo briefly after the game and he told me, ‘Well done on the move, just go and smash it’.
“When he went to Liverpool, a lot of people kind of wrote him off before he had kicked a ball.
“What he has gone on to achieve, though, didn’t shock me because I had seen him training every day at Hull, along with Harry Maguire.
“I was up against Robbo every day for two years at Hull and matching yourself against now one of the best left-backs in the world, I believe, has helped me as well.”
Bowen is from Leominster, 12 miles from Hereford and not far from the border with Wales. Ask him whether he feels even a little bit Welsh, though, and the reply is emphatic.
“Bowen is a Welsh name and the family background is more rugby than football, but we’re English through and through,” he said.
After six seasons at Hull, where he scored 54 goals in 131 matches, he is now settling to life in east London where, on Saturday, he is likely to make his full debut in what is a crucial Premier League game against Southampton.
Coming up the old fashioned way, cleaning dressing rooms at Hereford and even contemplating life away from football at one stage, his excitement is understandable.
“When I was 16, I got told at Hereford that they were scrapping their youth team because of their money problems, so I went to Cardiff,” he recalled.
“I was there for about six weeks and thought I had done well, but they called my dad and just said ‘no’.
“For a month or so I was in limbo and wasn’t playing any football. I was at home, trying to figure out what I was going to do, because at school I hadn’t paid as much attention as probably I should have done because I just knew I wanted to play football.
“Luckily for me, Hereford restarted their youth team. I trained a few times with the first team before my first stroke of luck, when the club’s youth team coach Pete Beadle, someone who knew me well, became the first-team manager. I played the last eight games of the season and from there it has been an upward curve.
“I’ve always dreamed of walking out to play in a huge stadium in front of a big crowd and now, hopefully, that will happen. You only have to do the numbers to realise what a big club this is — 54,000 season-ticket holders and a 60,000 capacity.
“I didn’t realise quite how big the stadium is. The first time I walked out onto the pitch was the night I signed and the sheer size of it just hit me.
“It looked even better the day after, when the stadium was full for the match against Brighton. I had played there once before with Hull but then, when you’re one of the away team, it’s different. I remember we lost the game 1-0 and, as I remember, Mark Noble scored from the penalty spot, as he usually does.”
Bowen also revealed that, had things gone differently, he might not have been the first member of his family to play for the Hammers.
“My dad Sam used to play and when he was at Merthyr Tydfil he came to West Ham for a trial and Harry Redknapp wanted to sign him,” he
said. “Apparently, Merthyr said he couldn’t go, though, and my dad reckons they ruined his career.”
Bowen Jr, however, has made the move to the East End and remains bullish about the club’s chances of avoiding relegation.
“I’m confident that I can score goals in the Premier League,” he said. “The gaffer and the rest of the lads are equally optimistic that we can get out of this situation.
“No one is depressed or down. A lot of these players are experienced and know what is required.
“The first two games of my West Ham career were away at Manchester City and Liverpool. You dream of that kind of scenario as a kid, but they both came a bit quickly. It was a case of ‘welcome to the Premier League’.”
His final thoughts, though, are for those people in Hereford who have been so badly affected by the recent flooding.
“I’m told the water levels are the highest they’ve ever been,” said Bowen. “I just hope things will improve soon.”