Rotherham United: From record buy to reject ... The sad Millers fall of Jordan Bowery

They were behind and Rotherham United were desperately chasing the game against Charlton Athletic.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 24th January 2016, 11:00 pm
Jordan Bowery after his miss at Middlesbrough
Jordan Bowery after his miss at Middlesbrough

As the clock ticked into the 70th minute, a cross came in from the left and striker Jordan Bowery waited at the back post; patiently, motionless, hoping it might reach him.

In blazed Luciano Becchio, barging defenders out of his way, risking a clash with the goalkeeper, to send a power-header into the net right in front of a delirous kop.

1-1 in the Championship clash at AESSEAL New York Stadium on September 20 last season and an object lesson to the watching Bowery in how a forward should go about his business in the opposition penalty area.

Bowery scores against the Owls

There’s a great picture in The Star archives of the ball bent, almost banana-like, round the head of Becchio such was the force with which the Argentine hitman met it.

Becchio, who was on loan at the time, is now back with the Millers, while Bowery, after cancelling his Rotherham contract, has gone to Oxford United and down to the level where he first came to prominence as a Chesterfield FC prospect barely past his 17th birthday - League Two.

It’s a sobering fall for the 24-year-old who was Rotherham’s record signing, thought to have cost around £250,000, when then-manager Steve Evans brought him to the club in the summer of 2014.

Physically, he has everything required to be a top player - pace, power and a lithe, muscular 6ft 3in frame perfect for modern-day football. It’s inside where he has been found wanting, in heart and mind.

The goal against Norwich

Some fans accused him of not trying, but I don’t believe that’s the case. He is a shy, quiet fella and just doesn’t have the character and hard-edged drive to impose himself on games and consistently make the most of the gifts nature has blessed him with.

He is a lovely lad, but lovely doesn’t make you a footballer. Evans described him as son-in-law material yet also publicly called him “wimpish” after one ineffectual display too many.

Five league goals in 40 league appearances for the Millers tell their own story.

There were one or two highs, an 87th-minute derby strike to put Rotherham 2-1 in front against Sheffield Wednesday - although the Millers were to lose horribly 3-2 in time added on - and a vital header against Norwich City to earn a 1-1 draw which set up the thrilling survival night against Reading three days later.

But the lasting impression is of a player with potentially so much to give who just doesn’t have the means to give it.

Neil Redfearn, who took over from Evans in October, offered Bowery a chance. The frontman, clean through on goal, missed a golden opportunity to equalise late on at Middlesbrough, inexplicably running the ball wide before slicing his shot, and would never wear a Rotherham shirt again.

Aston Villa saw enough talent to take him from the Spireites to the Premier League. He never scored in 19 appearances for the top-flight outfit and was one of Evans’ first big pieces of business after Rotherham’s League One Play-off Final victory over Leyton Orient in May 2014.

Bowery scores against the Owls

Tellingly, he didn’t make the 11 for the Millers’ first match back in the second tier, at Derby County, 10 weeks later, setting the scene for a frustrating Rotherham career of few starts and not enough impact when he came off the bench.

I liked him, and warmed to him the last time I interviewed him, in the corridor with just one other reporter present outside the press room at New York following his April goal against the Canaries as Evans’ side fought for their safety after a three-point Football League deduction.

That’s right, the corridor. The player who had just scored a crucial goal in front of a sold-out home crowd in the most tense game of the season so far was too nervous to enter the Les Payne Media Suite and face the assembled hacks in one go.

It will be interesting to see how he fares at Oxford - for whom he scored on Saturday seven minutes after coming on for his debut - whether the drop in level acts as a wake-up call and finally makes him the attacking threat he ought to be. It didn’t happen when he slipped from the Premier to the Championship, and it would be sad to see him be no more than a lovely lad in the basement division.

Bowery with attitude. What a player he might be.

A look at his league appearance figures at the three clubs where he has been permanently on the books reveals much.

The goal against Norwich

Thirty-three starts for Chesterfield, with 50 substitute outings. Five for Villa and 14 as a replacement. Eight with the Millers plus 32.

Even a loan spell at Bradford City right at the end of his Rotherham career shows one start against two off the bench.

Managers have him at their disposal in the hope he might, just might, truly apply himself but can’t rely on him to influence a game over a 90-minute shift.

Maybe those sub stats say even more than five Millers goals in 40 league games.