Matt Healey continues the series.
Gary Bowyer was born in Manchester on the 22nd June 1971. His father was two time Nottingham Forest European Cup winner Ian Bowyer. After Bowyer Senior left the City Ground in 1987, he joined Hereford United initially as Player Coach.
A couple of months into the 1987/1988 campaign the Hereford manager John Newman departed and Ian was appointed player manager. The Bowyer family relocated to Hereford.
Gary’s route into football was a bit unique, he never completed a YTS apprenticeship which back then was generally the normal route into the game, he took on a job as an insurance clerk at Swinton Insurance which was then based in St Owen Street.
Gary told me “We all moved to Hereford as a family when my dad signed for the club. I was playing local football with Westfields. I played a few games for the Hereford youth team and I was combining all that with a job working in insurance”
Gary appeared in the Mel Pejic testimonial against Everton in November 1989, he made his official Hereford debut in a 1-1 draw away at Bangor City in the Welsh Cup on the 22nd February 1990, the previous day Hereford had lost 4-3 on penalties to Neil Warnock’s Notts County in the Leyland DAF Cup. It seems insane that Hereford would play two evening matches in two days, but that’s what happened. Bowyer senior tweaked his squad the following day and Bowyer Junior, plus another youngster called Shane Jones were drafted into the team.
Gary made his Football League debut in a 4-1 home win over Aldershot Town on the 3rd March 1990.
By the end of March Gary was a regular in the side and put in a man of the match performance in a 1-0 home loss to Burnley on the 28th March 1990.
The Bowyer’s would make history on the 21st April 1990 when both Ian and Gary played in the Hereford team that drew 3-3 away at Scunthorpe United. It was the first time a father and son had played together in a Football League match since 1952. Due to an injury crisis and a constant run of games Ian had returned to the side to help increase the numbers. Hereford played a whopping 66 league and cup games during the 1989/1990 campaign.
Gary remembers the game well “It was my fault for the 1st goal and we found ourselves 3-1 down with 5 minutes to go, Mark Jones made it 3-2, we then had a corner it landed to me, I produced an overhead kick and scored an equaliser, the old man was on the pitch, I didn’t think of him as my dad, he was just another player”
I asked Gary what it was like having his dad as his manager “He was certainly tougher, looking back he handled it very well, he didn’t show any favouritism towards me, he was definitely tougher on me than the other players”
Hereford United would face Wrexham on the 13th May 1990 in the Welsh Cup Final which was played at Cardiff Arms Park.
I asked Gary his memories of the game.
“The night before we stayed in a hotel. I roomed with Darren Peacock, it was touch and go whether he would play, but he had a late fitness test and made the line up. I was dressed and ready straight away, I remember seeing all the Hereford fans on the opposite side, I put the free kick in which set up Colin Robinson’s first goal, we got the winner through Ian Benbow and we were desperate for the referee to blow the whistle to get the win”
Despite a disappointing league campaign with Hereford finishing 17th. The club had done extremely well in the cup competitions that season. Ian had built up a young squad which would only get better.
Gary would then leave Hereford that summer and link up with Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest.
“It was a magnificent opportunity to join a brilliant football club with a fantastic manager” Gary added
Sadly the Hereford United board weren’t happy that Ian hadn’t secured his son on a full time Hereford contract. Gary had been playing on a non contract basis for the club and this led to Ian’s departure from Edgar Street. The video below explains all.
Due to injuries Gary never appeared for Nottingham Forest and left in 1995. He then spent two seasons at Rotherham United and won the Football League Trophy in 1996.
After retiring as a player Bowyer then became a coach. He was appointed Blackburn Rovers manager in 2013. He left Ewood Park in 2015 and linked up with Blackpool. He achieved promotion at Bloomfield Road to League One in 2017, but departed to join Bradford in 2019. After leaving Valley Parade he joined Derby County as coach of the Under 23’s, but is now in temporary charge at Salford City until the end of the season.
Photos supplied by Ron Parrott, MH Archive and Sky Sports *Quotes from Matt’s 2015 audioboom interview with Gary*