For those fans watching Swansea City at the Vetch Field during the first half of the Nineties, Jason Bowen will be a familiar name – a cultured front man with pace to burn, an eye for goal and absolutely perfect hair (ok, that last bit is probably something that sticks in my mind more than most others), Bowen was a popular Swan who served the club with distinction for five seasons. Those fans that watched him will be distraught at the news breaking overnight that Jason has been living with a Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis for the past two years. With the news now in the public domain it is time to make very clear to Jason – and his family – that the whole of the Jack Army is with him in his fight against this terrible disease.
Many Swans fans, me included, are still desperately coming to terms with the loss of Lenny Johnrose in August last year. Lenny had fought his ultimately losing battle with Motor Neurone Disease with courage, spirit and a wicked sense of humour for a number of years and his loss is still keenly felt.
A Touch Far Vetched paid it’s own tribute to Lenny with a fundraising night at Morgan’s Hotel a couple of months later and at the start of this year we signified the strengthening of our support for the South West Wales branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association with a new JustGiving campaign named in Lenny’s honour.
Now this truly awful disease has targeted another former Swan, and again a player held in such high esteem for achievements on the pitch and his dignity off it.
Where Lenny scored a pivotal goal in that all important battle for our very League existence against Hull, Jason played his part in an altogether more enjoyable experience as part of the team that took the Swans to Wembley for the first time and came back with the Autoglass Trophy.
Given his debut in the 1990/91 season by Terry Yorath, Bowen went on to make 124 appearances for the Swans, bagging 26 goals along the way. Most of those appearances came under the fiery Frank Burrows and alongside captain John Cornforth, with whom he struck up an almost telepathic understanding. Indeed it was a huge feature of our game under Burrows as skipper Cornforth was encouraged to find pockets of space in midfield and ping diagonal balls for the lightning quick Bowen to latch on to.
It was almost inevitable that a player of Bowen’s ability would be poached from a Swansea City that was almost marooned in the bottom two divisions after the catastrophic crash of the early eighties. And so it was that Barry Fry came in with his big Birmingham chequebook and bought Bowen for a whopping £350,000.
Jason had given the Swans five years of excellent service and then generated a cash windfall – surely enough to make him Doug Sharpe’s favourite son!
After a couple of years battling to get through the crowd in a Birmingham squad that seemed to receive a new signing every day, Bowen moved on to Reading and then came back to Wales, signing for Cardiff City in January 1999 before completing a rare hat-trick of Welsh league clubs with a four year spell at Newport County.
It takes some guts to cross the ultra parochial divides within Welsh football but Jason met that particlar challenge without being phased in the slightest. His latest challenge though will need exponentially more courage as the 50 year old battles against the debilitating effects of Motor Neurone Disease.
Jason’s wife Hayley – who lost her own mother to MND 15 years ago – and family friend Katie have set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money that is needed to pay for treatments to stop the disease taking hold (such as hydrotherapy pool sessions) and adaptive equipment to enable Jason to lead as normal a life as possible.
And in a phone call with Katie earlier today I pledged the full support of A Touch Far Vetched – we shall integrate their fundraising efforts into our own commitments for the Motor Neurone Disease Association over the first half of this year, and provide support wherever and however we can for the family’s own fundraising efforts.
Already we have signposted Jason to the Swansea City Former Players Association and that in itself will open the way for all kinds of support including financial. It is why A Touch Far Vetched is also committed to raising money for the FPA this year.
And we will do whatever we can to support Jason, Hayley and Katie for as long as they want us to.
With Lenny still firmly in our memory it is time to mobilise the Jack Army for Jason!