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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 11:14 GMT
Bowyer's fresh start
Lee Bowyer's move to West Ham sees the midfielder returning to his roots
Lee Bowyer is leaving Leeds behind

There are those who would question the wisdom of Lee Bowyer's switch to West Ham - on both sides of the deal.

The sanity, both of player and of buying manager, will be brought into question.

But this is not so much a career move for Bowyer as a career-saving one.

For West Ham boss Glenn Roeder, the signing signals a last throw of the dice in the gamble for survival.

But, for all the raised eyebrows of those on the outside looking in, everyone involved in the deal will be smiling.

For now, at least.

POSSIBLE DEAL
'Nominal' transfer fee: Believed to be about 300,000
Survival bonus: 1m on offer if Hammers stay up
Wages: 30,000 per week, rising to 40,000 if deal is extended
Length of contract: Six month deal, with option of two-year extension

The deal with which Bowyer has been tempted is a shrewd bit of business by Hammers boss Glenn Roeder.

An initial six-month contract means that, should Bowyer fail to keep West Ham in the Premiership, the club will not be burdened with another massive Premiership salary.

And if he does turn the club's fortunes around in time to keep the Hammers up, then his 1m bonus will be a small price to pay - especially given his knock-down 300,000 transfer fee.

For Bowyer comes the chance of repositioning his chequered career with a club he followed as a boy.

Returning to his roots - and to the Docklands flat he invested in last year - would appear to be what Bowyer has been craving.

The incentive to keep West Ham up and secure the 1m prize bonus is intensified by his debt to Leeds for the same amount, a figure owed following his court battle over charges of affray and grevious bodily harm.

Even debt-ridden Leeds will be relatively happy with the deal as Terry Venables eases his crippling wage bill.

Their relief will be tempered by frustration after coming within touching distance of offloading Bowyer to Liverpool for 9m last summer.

Lee Bowyer endured a rollercoaster career at Leeds
Bowyer and Leeds striker Alan Smith
But Leeds stood to lose even more if Bowyer walked away in the summer after failing to agree a new contract with the Elland Road club.

And if anyone seriously questions the sanity of West Ham's commitment, they only need look at the queue of hopefuls battling for his signature.

Sunderland manager Howard Wilkinson, who spent a then-British record transfer fee for a teenager when he paid Charlton 2.7m to bring Bowyer to Leeds in 1996, was among his suitors again this time.

Tottenham and Birmingham were also keen to sign the midfielder, but his heart was set on West Ham.

"I spoke to Lee about joining us until the end of the season and we had a very positive conversation," said Wilkinson.

"But Lee told me that he supported West Ham as a youngster and if he was to go anywhere it would be there."

This move is so important

Frank Lampard snr

Bowyer's decision to go back to his roots will give him the chance to clean up his career and start from scratch.

And Upton Park legend Frank Lampard senior believes a return to London is just what is needed to revive Bowyer's - and Roeder's - fortunes.

"Maybe he needs to be away to make a fresh start," Lampard told BBC Radio Five Live.

"As players get older they mature. With his local roots and his family around him he can get on with football.

"This move is so important. If Lee comes here and does the business I'm sure fans will pat Glenn Roeder on the back."

 VOTE RESULTS
Could Lee Bowyer keep West Ham up?

Yes
 38.88% 

No
 61.12% 

26830 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
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