The current Charlton manager, who appeared 51 times for the Hammers during his playing career, heaped praise on the 23-year-old and claimed he was a better player for having spent time with the League One club on loan.
“He could have been playing U23 football for West Ham last year, and we were lucky enough to get him and now look at him, to go and represent your country at the highest level, just shows how well he has done y’know.”
It’s easy to see why Cullen impressed and improved as he featured 32 times for Charlton, scoring one goal while assisting six, due to Bowyer opting to trust him enough to start 71% of the club’s league games. (Source: Transfermarkt)
While Bowyer previously raved about the improvement of Cullen and highlighted that he now has been capped by the Republic of Ireland in an interview with Charlton’s official website, the fact he points out the midfielder may have been stuck at the Hammers playing for the U-23s if the club hadn’t taken him on loan is telling.
Bowyer clearly took a chance of loaning Cullen and it was a chance that not all managers would have taken.
After all, there was no guarantee the 23-year-old would have been a success story even though he was dropping down to play his football in League One.
This is because Cullen’s last loan, a brief spell at Bolton, didn’t exactly go to plan.
The 23-year-old played in the opening nine league games of Bolton’s 2017/18 campaign in the Championship before being dropped to the bench due to lacklustre displays, as the midfielder didn’t manage to score or register an assist despite being deployed in the No.10 position.
After playing in the opening nine games, Cullen was picked only three more times to feature in the league for Bolton before being sent back to the Hammers.
While the midfielder did previously excel on loan with Bradford in League One, he won the club’s Players’ Player of the Season award in his 2016/17 season (Source: West Ham’s official website), that still didn’t make him an attractive prospect to borrow as teams normally go on the most up-to-date season.
Also the Hammers owe Bowyer for Cullen’s improvement due to what happened during the course of the 2018/19 campaign.
The 23-year-old midfielder missed 11 games for Charlton after dislocating his shoulder, he ended up needing surgery (Source: Charlton’s official website), and most other managers would have tried to end his loan rather than wait around for him to return like Bowyer did.
So with that in mind, the Hammers owe Bowyer for helping Cullen fulfil some of his potential as he certainly wouldn’t have done stuck in the club’s U-23s.