Bowyer hopes for 'fresh start' at West Ham

Leeds mid-fielder Lee Bowyer has been banned for six matches by UEFA for stamping on Malaga defender Gerardo's face in a UEFA Cup tie last year. Bowyer joined h

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Lee Bowyer's mission at last-place West Ham is twofold: stay out of trouble and keep the Hammers from being relegated. Constantly in the news on and off the pitch, Bowyer joined his boyhood club on Wednesday from Leeds on a six-month contract that is reported to contain a 1 million pound (US$ 1.6 million) bonus if he can keep the Hammers from going down. Wednesday illustrated the turmoil that has engulfed the attacking midfielder's career. His move to West Ham came just hours after European soccer's governing body UEFA banned Bowyer for six European games for stamping on the head of Malaga's Gerardo Garcia in a December 12 match. Malaga won the game 2-1, ousting Leeds from the third round of the UEFA Cup. Speaking on Thursday, Bowyer tried to put the focus on his soccer skills. "At the end of the day, I'm a footballer and I am coming here to play football, so I want to be judged on that,'' he said. "I just get on with it and let my football do the talking. I just want to get on with working hard.'' Bowyer, who has played only once internationally despite enormous talent, admitted his troubled past has pulled him down. He hopes returning to his roots in gritty east London can resurrect his career. "It has dragged on a bit but I am here now and I can't wait to get going,'' he said. "There were a few clubs that came in but West Ham was the most appealing to me," he said. "I said when I was to leave Leeds it was going to take something special, and there's nothing more special than coming 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,'' he added. Manager Glenn Roeder described Bowyer as a player "who excels under pressure.'' "Obviously it is a different kind of pressure he is coming to because we are trying to come off the bottom of the table to get out of the relegation zone,'' he said. Asked about the possibility of Bowyer staying with the team after this season, Roeder responded: "We are not thinking that far, we are just very happy to have Lee at the football club and we hope that we can find the sort of form in the last 17 games that can ensure our Premiership survival.'' An Achilles injury may keep Bowyer out of Saturday's starting lineup against Newcastle on Saturday at Upton Park. "My injury is still a bit sore but it'll be fine. I still get the odd twinge but you just get on with it. Hopefully it is all behind me now and this is a fresh start,'' he said. He needs one. In a two-year stint at Charlton, Bowyer was suspended and ordered to undergo rehabilitation after a drug test showed traces of marijuana in his system. He moved to Leeds in 1996, and his volatile character surfaced again. In April 1999 he was fined for collecting 11 yellow cards and, in March the following year, became the first Premier League player to reach 14 in one season. Last season, he was banned for six games after being found guilty of elbowing Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister and swearing at referee Jeff Winter in a match against Arsenal. There have also been problems off the pitch. He was fined 4,500 pounds (US$7,200) in July 1996 for fighting in a McDonald's restaurant in south London. Along with Leeds defender Jonathan Woodgate, Bowyer was accused of being involved in the brutal beating in January 2000 of a 19-year-old Asian student in downtown Leeds. Both were cleared of assault after a high-profile trial but were fined by the club for being drunk in public. The trial judge also accused Bowyer of lying to police. (AP)