Margate striker Vinnie Bowman, 17, is living out every West Ham fans dream after he recently underwent trials in West Ham’s academy. 
I thought the environment was really different to men’s football, the standards are higher but physically it’s less demanding when you compare it to non-league.

“It was really good to get a sense of what academy football is like, you get a taste and you want more.

“The facilities and the things they do is next level, going in to ice baths, having your nutrition sorted for you. It’s so different. The boys there get the best tools in the world.

“I’ve been a massive West Ham fan since I was very small. When I lived in Australia I would always wake up early to watch the games.

“When I first moved back to the UK, I went to the West Ham v Sevilla Europa League game. It was the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at a football game.

“A trial at a Premier League club was always going to be exciting but it was just incredible to go on trial at West Ham being a massive fan.

“Being able to put that kit on was very special to me and something I hope to do again in the future.”

Vinnie scored his first senior goal on the 5th of December 2023 for Margate and went on to score three more times for them in his debut season in the Isthmian Premier Division (step 7).

“Non-league gives you a very different outlook on football, it gives you more experience. 

“I’ve met boys in pro-academies during my trials, they get loans and trials but if it doesn’t work out they end up at this level anyway.

“You just get so much out of men’s football, I love it.”

From Maidstone Under-23’s to Margates first-team and now to trials at top clubs, Bowman has had quite the breakthrough season.

“When I went into training I just wanted to impress, I felt like I was earning my right to start playing and when the opportunity comes you have to grab it with both hands and run with it.

“I felt like I did that this season.

“Things can change in days, one minute first choice striker but by the end of the week you could be gone.

“One week at Margate I didn’t make the bench and my family was coming to watch me.

“That gives you the desire to work harder in training and in everything that you do and made me have the mindset that I’m always on that bench, I’m always coming on, I’m always playing.

“Being young, going up against experienced players and fighting for your spot is difficult but I always felt the managers faith in me even if I wasn’t playing which I really appreciated.”

In his breakthrough season for Margate Bowman won the admiration of ex-Gillingham manager Mark Stimson.
“Mark was really top, he’d personally bring me into his office and speak to me about my performance and discuss with me what I can do better, help me personally improve my game.

“I learnt a lot from him.

In an interview with Kent Online, Stimson spoke highly of Vinnie while he was in the midst of his trial with Millwall.

“Normally you don’t get invited back if you haven’t shown something.

“The kid is very young, a lot of growing to do in his body, but he is a decent size and he knows where the goal is. I am not surprised the pro clubs are looking at him.

“He has good touch and awareness and in front of goal for a young lad looks very composed, which is good for a young player.”

Vinnie also had the guidance of a very experienced changing room, includin now player manager for Margate, Ben Greenhalgh.

“As well as Stimmo, Ben [Greenhalgh], Steve [Cawley], Harry [Hudson] and Knighty [Lewis Knight] have been great mentors for me during my breakout season and have really helped me to develop.” 

Ben Greenhalgh, the now player manager of Margate FC, had this to say: “It’s great to have a local lad who’s come through the academy, he could play a massive feature for the club in the next few years.

“Vinnie had a positive first season in men’s football last year, especially starting it out at just 16 year’s old.

“I think the trials will have given him a taste of the world he wants to progress into and also the level of players that he is competing with.

“He has the desire and attitude and that can take him a long way.
“The second season is always difficult when you’re young but he’s going to be given lots of opportunities.

Bowman recently acquired an agent with Integral Sports Management, with one of our one, the iconic Ray Winstone being one of the founders. 

At just 17-years-old, the future is looking bright for one of Non-Leagues hottest prospects.

“My agent is a great guy, he gives great advice and has a lot of connections in the game so he is really helping me to find those opportunities.

“I hope to get into an academy by the start of next season, play well and get a pro contract but if not I’ll end up staying in men’s football a bit longer which isn’t the worst because I’m young and will only get better.”

By Riley Finch