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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Another new start for Bowyer
By Andrew McKenzie

Former Hammer Lee Bowyer
Bowyer has struggled with injury
At 26 years of age Lee Bowyer should be approaching the prime years of his career.

Instead he is almost certainly entering the last-chance saloon.

His move to Newcastle looks like being the latest attempt to start all over again for the troubled midfielder.

Fresh start number one happened in 1996 when Bowyer moved to Leeds from Charlton for 2.8m - then a record for a teenager.

Bowyer had risen to prominence after escaping his upbringing on a rough council estate in east London by joining Charlton as a 17-year-old.

But three months after his move to Elland Road, Bowyer was involved in an incident in east London that led to him being charged and fined 4,500 for affray.

Despite the early setback Bowyer developed into one of the best midfield players in the Premiership with Leeds.

In the 2000-2001 season he scored 15 goals and was a central part in a young Leeds side that made the Champions League semi-finals and looked destined for great things.

But away from the pitch things were to take a turn for the worse as Bowyer and team-mate Jonathan Woodgate were embroiled in a much-publicised court case after an Asian student was attacked in Leeds city centre.

Born: 03/01/1977, London
Clubs: Charlton, Leeds, West Ham
League appearances: 259
League goals: 46
England caps: 1

The FA blocked the pair from being picked for England, with both facing charges of GBH.

While Woodgate was eventually found guilty of affray, Bowyer was cleared off all charges.

That appeared to be fresh start number two for Bowyer.

But while Woodgate has quietly rebuilt his life and career since then, for Bowyer things have gone steadily downhill.

He was labelled an "animal", "vile" and "a scumbag" by the press even after being acquitted, and his loyalty to the club that stood by him soon came into question.

Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale had stuck by the player during the trial and led the calls for an England call-up.

But while Woodgate accepted being docked eight-weeks wages, Bowyer refused to pay a four-week fine for breaking the club's code of conduct and was transfer-listed.

Bowyer was given the green light to be picked for England after the end of the court case in December 2001.

Woodgate (left) and Bowyer
Woodgate (left) has rebuilt his career

But his reputation within the game was hardly helped by a six-match ban in February 2002 for elbowing Gary McAllister and his subsequent verbal attack on referee Jeff Winter.

He was overlooked in the run up to the World Cup in Japan and Korea and had to wait until September 2002 to make his debut against Portugal.

But despite generally considered to have had a good game he was left out for the next squad and has not had a look-in since.

After refusing to sign a new five-year 40,000-a-week deal Bowyer was sold to West Ham in January 2003.

Once rated 15m, Bowyer had been previously been close to a 9m move to Liverpool but was eventually sold for just 100,000.

With Bowyer set to walk away for nothing at the end of the season Leeds opted to cut their losses.

Bowyer signed a short-term contract with the club he supported as a boy and announced: "I can't be any happier than I am at the moment."

But it failed to produce a successful marriage, with the player failing to make an impact and the club being relegated.

Four months on and Bowyer is looking for fresh start number four.


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