Lee Bowyer has been keeping a low profile of late - at least since scoring the winner at the Boleyn Ground for Ipswich Town last season.

As it turns out, the midfielder, who hails from Canning Town, declined a coaching role or two in the summer, if only because he's not quite ready to call time on his playing career.

The 36-year-old had long aspired to play for his boyhood club come his West Ham United debut against last weekend's visitors Newcastle United in January 2003. Much to his anguish, it was to prove a turbulent few months as injury and the Hammers' relegation left a decidedly bitter taste.

"I think West Ham were bottom when I arrived and things obviously weren't going well," he recalled. "I could have stayed at Leeds or joined Newcastle but I followed my heart.

"I tried to come and help them get out of the relegation fight but I wasn't fully fit. I came with a dodgy ankle and had to have an operation before the end of the season, so it wasn't a particularly nice ending."

With unfinished business at the Boleyn Ground, Bowyer returned in the summer of 2006, determined to make amends for that first painful six-month stint.

"The second spell was a much better time," he continued. "They were two completely different scenarios. I felt like I didn't really show everyone what I was capable of first time round. I wanted an opportunity to put things right and hopefully I did that to some extent.

"As a kid all I wanted was to play for West Ham and I was fortunate enough to do that. I would never change it. There aren't many players out there who get to play for the club they supported."

Bowyer rightly predicted that last Saturday's clash with the Magpies - another of his former clubs - would end in a draw, and the midfielder believes West Ham can now relax and enjoy their remaining two fixtures at Everton and at home to relegated Reading.

"West Ham are safe anyway, they've had a great season and can start planning for the next. Sam Allardyce knows how to keep sides in the Premier League. For as long as he's there, West Ham will be in the Premier League every year, I guarantee that."

Bowyer's own whereabouts have been something of a mystery since departing Portman Road at the end of last term. But far from falling off the face of football, he is still keen on getting a club for next season.

"I'm doing my coaching badges at the moment and spending time with my family. I might try to nick another year as a player next season. I could have played this year but it wasn't really right. Paul Jewell wanted to keep me on as a coach at Ipswich but I wasn't quite was ready for that.

"I got offered a player-coaching role at Gillingham with Martin Allen but didn't really fancy it either. I don't think you can be a player and a coach because when you walk into the dressing room the players will think 'He's going to be the teacher's pet.' I didn't want to be put in that position.

"With the people that I've worked with and played under it would be criminal not to go into coaching. I've worked under five former England managers and learned a hell of a lot in the game. I'm not interested in being a manager, but I'd like to coach youngsters, perhaps U16s or U18s and guide them with my experience."

*This interview with Lee Bowyer originally appeared in Saturday's Official Programme for the visit of Newcastle United. To order your copy now, click here.

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