Bowyer's new lease of life

The London-born player will be relishing the prospect of proving he is not a spent force and his experience and combative nature will come in handy as Birmingham look to avoid a relegation battle, writes Alfonso Torr.

The Barclays English Premier League is likely to be a livelier place next season following the return of Lee Bowyer.

The 32-year-old midfielder is back in the English top flight after helping Birmingham to promotion from the Championship in May.

Bowyer has experienced his fair share of controversy throughout his career, but he played a major role in helping Alex McLeish's side regain their EPL status at the first attempt. He made 17 appearances during his loan period, scoring his only goal on his debut against Cardiff in January, and he was recently rewarded with a two-year deal at St. Andrew's following his release by West Ham.

The London-born player will now be relishing the prospect of proving he is not a spent force and his experience and combative nature will come in handy as Birmingham look to avoid a relegation battle.

Bowyer has certainly been involved in his fair share of those during a career that began at Charlton before switching to Leeds in 1996 for a fee of GBP2.8 million - a thenrecord transfer for a British teenager.

His time with the Addicks was overshadowed somewhat when he was suspended and ordered to undergo rehabilitation after a Football Association drugs test showed traces of marijuana in his blood, but he was soon back on track and continued his progress at Elland Road.

Under manager David O'Leary, Bowyer helped Leeds qualify for the UEFA Champions League in 1999/ 00 and reach the UEFA Cup semifinals in the same season, where they lost 4-2 on aggregate to Galatasaray.

The following campaign saw the Yorkshire club progress to the last four of the Champions League, only to this time lose 3-0 on aggregate to Valencia.

Off the pitch, Bowyer hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2000 when he, team-mate Jonathan Woodgate and two other men were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and affray following an altercation with an Asian student during a night out in Leeds.

Bowyer denied any wrongdoing and was later cleared of all charges, but the court case and subsequent retrial represented a dark moment of his career.

However, many believe Bowyer played some of his best football during that time and that almost paved the way for a GBP9 million move to Liverpool in July 2002.

A fee was agreed with leeds, but Liverpool then released a statement questioning whether he had the "hunger or desire to play for the club". He later joined West Ham in January 2003 after snubbing the offer of a new deal at Leeds. His first spell with the club he supported growing up in the English capital proved a brief one as the Hammers were relegated at the end of the 2002/03 season and he joined Newcastle on a free transfer that summer.

Then came Bowyer's infamous on-pitch fight with Toon team-mate Kieron Dyer during the 3-0 home defeat against Aston Villa in April 2005, which resulted in both players being sent off in front of a stunned St. James' Park.

The two players were, somewhat surprisingly, later reunited at West Ham, whom Bowyer rejoined in June 2006 after making nearly 100 appearances for the Magpies. He gradually found opportunities limited at Upton Park, but regained his match sharpness following a loan switch to Birmingham back in January that has now offered Bowyer another chance to impress in the Premier League.

Bowyer is now fast approaching his 500th career appearance and will feel he has a point to prove when the new season gets under way.

With his disciplinary record on the pitch - and exploits off it - it is hardly surprising that Bowyer's international career failed to take off.

In fact, he made just one appearance for England, although ousting the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard from the national set-up was always likely to prove difficult.

Bowyer revealed in January shortly after joining Birmingham that his girlfriend was expecting twins.

A silver Porsche 911 Turbo is believed to take pride of place in Bowyer's car collection.

Factfile Name: Lee Bowyer Position: Midfielder Club: Birmingham D.O.B.: 03/01/1977 England caps: 1 England goals: 0 England debut: September 2002 v Portugal Moment to remember

Bowyer sparked wild scenes at Elland Road when he netted early on during a UEFA Champions League clash against Barcelona back in 2000. Unfortunately for Leeds, Rivaldo snatched a 90th minute equaliser for the Spanish giants to deny them what would have been a memorable win.

Moment to forget

As a tough-tackling box-to-box midfielder, Bowyer is not afraid to get stuck in, but even he will admit he went over the top during a UEFA Cup tie against Malaga for Leeds in December 2002. Bowyer appeared to stamp on midfielder Gerardo and was later handed a six-match ban by UEFA. The 2-1 defeat also proved to be his last game for Leeds.

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