These are strange times at Newcastle United. Fan unrest has simmered, Steve Bruce is only the second-most unpopular man at St. James' Park and, according to reports, the Magpies could spend again in January with Hull City striker Jarrod Bowen the object of their desires.
The 20-year-old was on United's wish-list, as well as a host of other clubs, in the summer. But Newcastle opted against making an offer due to the Tigers' valuation.
Six months on and, according to The Chronicle, Newcastle's interest remains. The Magpies are expected to launch a swoop for Bowen in January in a bid to bolster Bruce's attack.
Hull are unlikely to part with their top scorer cheaply, but Bowen has just 18 months left on his contract, weakening their hand. Even with City holding an option to extend his deal, their chances to cash in on the 22-year-old are quickly disappearing,
Asked about his star man's contract situation, Tigers boss Grant McCann told the Hull Daily Mail: “We would love him to sign a new deal but we understand where he is at.
“He has got a year and a half left, it’s completely down to Jarrod and his representatives but I think he is focused on his football. That is the most important thing.”
He was Hull's Player of the Year, Players' Player of the Year and Hull City Supporter's Player of the Year last term after hitting 22 goals in 46 appearances for the Tigers. If he can continue his fine form into the second half of the season, the smart money says Bowen will clean up again.
That is, of course, unless he leaves Yorkshire to move further up the east coast. Newcastle need to increase their goal threat with seven of their 11 league strikes coming from defenders. Strikers Joelinton and Yoshinori Muto have just one apiece and the former, £36million summer signing from Hoffenheim, has scarcely looked like adding to that tally.
Bowen, by contrast, has run hot in front of goal this season, scoring at a rate of 0.64 goals per 90 – better than the 0.44 expected goals he should have been hitting. That is despite only playing through the middle in the Tigers' last few games. Prior to that, the former Hereford United youngster had been out on the right, making his goal tally all the more impressive.
It was a similar story last term, too, with Bowen breaking the 20-goal barrier from a wide position, usually in a 4-2-3-1 system. Though nominally a wide player, Bowen has a knack for popping up in the penalty area to score, with an almost poacher-like instinct.
Although his left foot is his weapon of choice, Bowen is comfortable on either in front of goal – just witness his brace at the weekend against Middlesbrough as proof.
For his first, he barreled forward before unleashing a rasping left-footed effort that arrowed into the bottom corner. For his second, the Tigers' equaliser, Bowen was Johnny-on-the-spot to lash home from close range with his right.
But there is more to Bowen than goals. He can perform the role of a more traditional winger, going down the line or, more often than not, cutting inside to utilise his left foot. He is ninth in the Championship for crosses per 90 (0.76) and creates 0.23 Big Chances per 90, ranking 17th among Championship forwards.
Comfortable running at full-backs, Bowen completes two dribbles per 90 (12th) from 3.88 attempted take-ons, a reasonably high success rate of 51 per cent. Perhaps most impressive is his decision making while running at pace.
His assist for Jackson Irvine against Rotherham United last August was a prime example of this, receiving the ball from Fraizer Campbell, darting into the box and squaring for the Australian to finish, all while under pressure from two Millers defenders. He did it all without even looking to his left.
What will appeal to prospective buyers ever bit as much as his attacking flair is his defensive work-rate. Wingers are usually typecast as lazy, flighty types only interested in making full-backs look foolish. But Bowen more than holds his own defensively.
He ranks tenth among Championship forwards for interceptions per 90 with 0.74 and but, interestingly, also wins 1.94 possessions per 90 in the Tigers' defensive third which underlines a willingness to do the unglamorous work and track back.
However, his endeavours have not gone unnoticed and Bowen looks set to be the next young talent to fetch big money for the Tigers.