For a lifelong West Ham United supporter, Lee Bowyer did not do his favourite club many favours during a successful playing career!
The midfielder enjoyed 14 victories in his 21 senior appearances against the Hammers for Leeds United, Newcastle United, Birmingham City and Ipswich Town, scoring seven goals in the process.
Now 36, Bowyer took the 2012/13 season out to concentrate on studying for his coaching badges, but the Canning Town-born player was back at the Boleyn Ground recently to take part in a charity match. West Ham TV caught up with the former England international.
WATCH LEE BOWYER ON WEST HAM TV
Welcome back Lee! Last time we saw you at the Boleyn Ground, you scored a last-minute winner for Ipswich Town in the Championship in September 2011. What have you been up to since then?
LB - "I have just had a nice rest really, spending time with my family and trying other sports that I'm interested in. I have had a nice year out. I still feel I can do a job for someone and, while I still feel like that, I won't retire. If nothing comes this year, then that will tell me that nothing is going to happen. I did have a couple of clubs interested in me last year, but it just didn't feel right to go and do that, so I'll see what options I have this year and go from there."
You had two spells with West Ham. You were relegated at the end of an injury-affected six-month stay in 2003, but enjoyed more success during your second time here between 2006 and 2009. How do you remember your spells with the Hammers?
LB - "I have fond memories of my time with West Ham. Obviously, the first time around I came to the club injured and they knew I was injured, but I couldn't really help. That was the only reason why I came [to help]. I could have gone somewhere else, but I followed my heart and I tried but I just couldn't do it with my dodgy ankle that I had. The second time round was all right. I was here for three years and I enjoyed it. I scored a few goals and it was something I always wanted to do as a kid. It's my club and I can say I have played and scored for the club that I love."
During your second spell, you played in a talented midfield containing the likes of Mark Noble, Matty Etherington, Yossi Benayoun and Nobby Solano. That must have been enjoyable to be part of?
LB - "It was good, yes. By the end, there were quite a few players who had come from Newcastle like I did, so there were some good players to go alongside those who were already here. We had Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, so we had some good players and some good times."
You hit the heights of the top of the Premier League and UEFA Champions League semi-finals with Leeds United and had success with Newcastle United. Although we didn't hit the same heights at West Ham, presumably the 2006/07 'Great Escape' was a fantastic time to be at a club?
LB - "Yes it was, because everybody had written us off. Obviously, Tevez turned it on towards the end of the season and thankfully we stayed up that year. It was like winning something to have been written off like we were and then end up staying up."
The alarm bells didn't ring as loudly for West Ham in 2012/13, when the team comfortably steered clear of the relegation battle. What did you make of the present-day Hammers?
LB - "I thought we did well. Like I said in a Programme interview I did towards the end of the season, as long as Sam [Allardyce] is here then we won't get relegated. He knows this league inside out and, whatever side he has had, [he has thrived], even at Bolton. This squad is a lot stronger than the one he had in his Bolton days. Hopefully Andy Carroll might be coming, so if that comes off it will be a great bit of business. I think the Club is stable now and the owners have come in and done a good job there too."
Looking forward, the Club will move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in 2016. As a lifelong supporter, what are your thoughts on the matter?
LB - "I can understand what some fans are saying because the tradition is at the Boleyn Ground and it is an intimidating place to come and play as an away player. It's never nice! With being at the Olympic Stadium, it will be a completely different atmosphere but hopefully it will work for us. I think the crowd will get behind the team and we'll go from there. It's going to change, but maybe it is time to move. Clubs do move grounds. Manchester City have gone into a bigger ground and they're filling it. Financially, it's good for the Club in that way. The more fans you there, the more noise they make and the more intimidating it is for the other team. It also spurs you on as a home player. At Leeds, the European nights we had were magical and the crowd made a difference. Hopefully, it'll work the same here."