There was a moment when Pete Beadle knew he couldn’t help Jarrod Bowen any more.
It was watching him on the training pitch with the rest of the callow kids trying their best to force their way out of the youth team and into the big time.
The big time back in 2013 for the 16-year-old from nearby Leominster, was the Hereford United first team.
Nine years later and Bowen could be about to hit the biggest time of all – playing for England.
“I’m privileged to have played a part in his pathway,” Beadle told BBC Hereford and Worcester.
“It’s nice the see he’s got the rewards his season has deserved.”
Bowen ‘needed to step up to the first team’
Thanks to his outstanding form with West Ham, Bowen is preparing for a potential debut for his country in Saturday’s Nations League game in Hungary.
Even back in 2013 Beadle – his former academy coach and later manager at the Bulls – knew the teenager was different.
“We had a lot of good players in that [academy] side – Jamie Gregory from Bristol City and Owen Evans who went on to play for Wigan and Cheltenham, Billy Murphy went to Bristol City from us but Jarrod was obviously the stand out,” Beadle said.
“About five months into our tenure there we just said training with us isn’t benefitting him anymore – he needs to step up to the first team.
“We spoke to [then manager] Martin [Foyle] and said ‘you really need to take him with you he’s really not gaining anything being with us’. And Martin took him.
“Within a few weeks a few of the first-team players came up to me and said ‘look he’s going to be some player. He’s better than some of the players we’ve got.'”
- England squad: Bowen and James called up
With the club engulfed in a fight to stay in what was then the Conference Premier division, Bowen’s first-team chance didn’t materialise under Foyle, who left Edgar Street in March 2014 with the Bulls just four points above the relegation zone.
But Beadle’s elevation to the hot seat changed that.
Bowen, then 17, went straight into the first team and scored his first goal in front of the adoring fans in the Meadow End in a vital win against Alfreton as the Bulls ultimately went on to secure their survival on goal-difference against the backdrop of major financial problems.
“When Martin left, I had no hesitation putting him in because, for me, if you’re good enough you’re old enough – and he made us better,” Beadle said.
“He’s played for the club he’s supported as a young boy. He scored his first goal at the Meadow End and celebrated with his mates that were jumping up at the wall and obviously he’s gone on from there.”
Despite the club’s survival on the field at the end of 2013-14, its survival off it proved much more elusive.
Hereford were expelled from the Conference that summer as the financial issues deepened, with worse to come in December when they were wound up in the High Court over a six-figure tax debt.
- West Ham sign Bowen from Hull
Finishing like Fowler
By then Bowen had moved on to Hull City and, after returning to Edgar Street to play a pre-season friendly against the newly formed Hereford FC, his career blossomed.
He joined West Ham in January 2020 for a fee of around £20m and this season has been a revelation.
With finishing likened to Robbie Fowler, his 18 goals and double-figure assists propelled the Hammers to the semi-finals of the Europa League and, after mixing it with the top-four contenders for much of the campaign, a seventh-placed finish in the Premier League.
And now to England.
“He’s been knocking on the door of the England set-up and I think this season he’s become someone West Ham can’t do without,” Beadle said.
“It’s a fairytale really, his whole career’s been a fairytale.”
It’s been some rise for player who dragged tractor tyres across a potato field as a youngster to find an edge in his strength and stamina. Beadle certainly isn’t surprised Bowen’s career has panned out the way it has given his attitude to hard work.
“I think that comes form his humble background. He’s a very humble boy and that philosophy has come from his dad that you’ve got to work,” Beadle added.
“When we had him in the youth team his work-rate was incredible. One night when he played Bournemouth in the second round of the FA Cup he was fantastic – covering so much ground.
“If we’d had GPS it’d probably be close to 15 kilometres – it was ridiculous. He was happy to do it because he knew it was what the team needed.
“It’s no surprise West Ham have improved since he’s been there because he’s an infectious character and when they see him closing down and doing the work he does it spurs other people on.
“That’s the mindset you need to have to be a top top player and Jarrod has that in abundance – hopefully he can show it on the highest stage.”
Bowen has forced his way into the big time – from Hereford, to Hull, to the Hammers. Now for Hungary.