Alan Taylor: Jarrod Bowen can take his Arsenal opportunity, just like I did!
It is 45 years to the week since a forward signed from the lower divisions made his mark by firing West Ham United to a dramatic away win at Arsenal.
Alan Taylor had arrived from Fourth Division Rochdale and played just 15 minutes of top-flight football when John Lyall handed the 21-year-old striker a shock start in an FA Cup quarter-final at Highbury on 8 March 1975. He responded to the unexpected call by scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory.
Four-and-a-half decades later, a forward signed from the lower divisions will seek to make his mark by firing West Ham United to a dramatic away win at Arsenal, albeit in the Premier League, this Saturday afternoon.
While seeing Jarrod Bowen’s name on the Hammers’ teamsheet would not be a surprise following his goalscoring, Man-of-the-Match performance in a home win over Southampton last time out, Taylor can see parallels with his own fairytale appearance in north London.
I like to think that, when I got my chance, I took it, and I’d love to see Jarrod take his too, like he did against Southampton
“Jarrod has come in from Hull and he will surely start at Arsenal, which is where I made my first start all those years ago!” confirmed Taylor, who went on to score twice in the semi-finals and final as West Ham won the FA Cup for a second time. “Let’s hope a bit of that magic can rub off on him and he can do the business for us.
“I came from the Fourth Division and Rochdale, while Jarrod has come from the Championship, but I do believe that both of us benefited from playing with better players in a better standard of football.
“Playing at that top level certainly gives you something to aspire to. I like to think that, when I got my chance, I took it, and I’d love to see Jarrod take his too, like he did against Southampton.
“To step up from where he has done, this is where he wants to be and he’s got a great opportunity, so hopefully he takes it.”
Aside from his FA Cup heroics, Taylor also bagged a brace in West Ham’s vital 3-2 First Division victory at Highbury in February 1977 – a win that helped the Hammers avoid the drop on the final day of the season.
All in, ‘Sparrow’ scored six goals in eight appearances against the Gunners, home and away, including another Boleyn Ground winner in November 1975.
“Personally, I obviously used to love playing at West Ham in front of everybody at Upton Park, but if I had a ground I always enjoyed visiting, Arsenal was probably my favourite!” he smiled. “I seemed to do well against Arsenal as well, so that was an added bonus.”
Fast forward 40-plus years and the 66-year-old is hoping Bowen and the Hammers can get the better of Arsenal again this weekend.
“If we keep playing like we have done against Liverpool and Southampton, it’s quite encouraging,” he observed.
“We need to keep scoring goals like we did in those two matches, and hopefully we can put one or two away again at Arsenal and get the win.”