Jarrod Bowen is relishing his first experience of Turf Moor as West Ham United enter the final month of an unforgettable 2020/21 Premier League season.
The Hammers travel to Burnley on Bank Holiday Monday for the 34th of their 38 top-flight matches knowing a top-six finish remains in their own hands, regardless of how other results played out this weekend.
Fifteen months on from his deadline day move from EFL Championship club Hull City, Bowen is looking forward to playing his part in the Irons' exciting run-in, welcoming the pressure of challenging for European qualification.
And, while he knows the Clarets will make things hard for David Moyes' side on their own home turf, the 24-year-old is far from intimidated by the prospect...
It’s a cliché, but we have five games left and we’re going to take them one at a time and see how many points we can get?
“We are in the run-in now with the games we have left and the points available. Obviously losing two on the bounce with not many games to go is disappointing for us, but it’s not been down to lack of quality and effort and all those things you expect from our team, especially the way we’ve been this season.
“It’s just been unfortunate, we’ve had two red cards in the last two games when we’ve only had one all season before that, which was Tomas’s at Fulham which was later overturned anyway, so it wasn’t a red card. That’s been unfortunate, but we took a lot from the games.
“Of course, no-one likes losing games, not the players or the fans, but the best thing to do now is think ‘we have five games left and it’s a massive chance for us to leave everything out on the pitch and try to win all five’.”
We’re enjoying this different sort of pressure from a year ago, though, aren’t we?
“We were fighting to stay in the best league in the world, which we want to be playing in year-in and year-out. Now we’re fighting for something else which is far better than being down the bottom or being in mid-table and feeling like you have nothing to play for.
“In the position we’re in now, I feel this is where we want to be season upon season. We want to be going into the last five games talking about European football of some description.
“It’s a great place to us to be, especially compared to last year when every game was even more of a dogfight just to pick up one point. It was a really tough time but we got through it and this season just shows what we’ve been working towards, certainly since I’ve been here.
“We’ve been really consistent all this season and we’re not here by coincidence, I don’t think.”
When you signed, you said it was a ‘no-brainer’, but some people would have looked at the Premier League table and questioned that and wondered if you were heading back to the Championship, where you’d been with Hull City, but you’ve been proved right so far…
“This is what I was hoping for, of course. Don’t get me wrong, when I was at Hull and it was the final day of the [January 2020] transfer window and bids got accepted it was a mad day, there were obviously thoughts in my mind that I didn’t just want to move to the Premier League. It had to be to the right club as I didn’t want to be back in the Championship in six months’ time.
“I had to take all that into consideration and there were talks with my Dad and my agent I just said: ‘Tell me the last time West Ham were in the Championship and how big the Club is?’ and when I thought about the fanbase around the world and size of the stadium, I thought ‘it’s not a Championship club’ and it doesn’t deserve to be in a relegation battle.
“Those were the facts when I signed last year, but this year shows the decision was right and it’s paid off.”
We have Burnley away next and, while we’re above them in the table, they come into the game off a 4-0 win at Wolves, so we’ll really need to be on our game to get the win, won’t we?
“Yes, the last five games of our run-in, they are still tough games even if, on paper, people are saying we have an easier run-in than some of the other clubs around us. I think games are harder in different ways.
“We have got Burnley, Brighton and West Brom away and all of them are sort of fighting relegation and they’re not going to give up an easy day’s work. It’s going to be tough, as we know how hard Burnley away is.
“I’ve never played at Turf Moor, so it’s one for me to tick off the list, but I know how tough they make it for visiting teams. They’re going to be buzzing after their unbelievable win at Wolves, but we want to go there with confidence and win the game, we’ll have good preparation and hopefully we’ll get the job done.”