Full Name: Gerard Columba Bowler
Born: 08 June 1919, Derry (Northern Ireland)
Transferred from: Distillery (NI), Summer 1946
Previous Clubs: Derry (NI)
Pompey Debut: 03 May 1947 v Wolverhampton Wanderers, (D 1-1)
Games: 9 (8 League, 1 Cup)
Final Game: 04 September 1948 v Stoke City (W 1-0)
Transferred to: Hull City
Subsequent Clubs: Millwall
Date of Death: 28 March 2006, Crawley
Having previously played for Derry Municipal Training College former Northern Irish footballer Gerry Bowler began his senior career with Derry F.C. just prior to World War II.
In 1943 at the age of 23 he transferred to Distillery for an Irish League record fee of £1,000 and quickly established himself as a competent player in either the right-back or right-half positions.
Three years and 122 first team appearances later, following the restoration of the Football League, Bowler decided to try and make a name for himself in England and signed for Jack Tinn’s Portsmouth. He had to wait until May 1947 however, before he saw first team action (as cover for Reg Flewin) in a 1-1 draw with Wolves at Fratton Park..
Despite featuring in just four games during his first season at Fratton Park, the retirement of Jack Tinn and appointment of Bob Jackson did not alter his fortunes the following season as he was handed just two League and one FA Cup appearances as Pompey finished 9th in Division One.
With Pompey embarking on the their ‘Golden Age’ Bowler continued to play no more than a supporting role and therefore found himself looking on as Pompey Skipper Reg Flewin accepted the Championship title for the first time in the clubs history. September away wins at Everton (5-0) and Stoke (1-0) – A victory that put Pompey on top of the league – were the only action he saw during Pompey’s successful 1948/49 campaign.
After just nine games in three seasons Bowler had to move on if he was to establish his career in England, but despite a transfer to Division Two Hull City (a move which saw him gain the recognition of being selected to play for his county in all three British Championship/World Cup qualification games) he continued to find it hard settle. An £11,000 move to Millwall in 1950 however was to change Bowlers fortunes.
Having finished bottom the previous season Division Three (South) Millwall were in danger of losing their League status and had to apply for re-election. Luckily it was awarded and due in part to Bowlers steadying influence Millwall finished a more satisfying 5th the following year and runners-up in 1952/53.
During the four seasons he played for The Lions Bowler developed into somewhat of a Millwall legend turning out in 165 matches until he was forced to retire from the professional game due to injury in 1955.
Having left Millwall, Bowler accepted the role of player-manager for his Sussex County League works team, the Crawley based APV Chemical Company, a role he performed until the 1962/63 season.
24/04/43 – Transfers to Distillery for an Irish League record of £1,000
Summer 46 – Transfers to Portsmouth
03/05/47 – Makes Portsmouth debut a home v Wolves
04/09/48 – Makes final Portsmouth appearance away to Stoke
19/08/49 – Transfers to Hull City
01/10/49 – Awarded 1st Full International Cap in British Championship/World Cup Qualifier v Scotland (L 2-8)
Summer 50 – Transfers to Millwall for £11,000
Summer 53 – Toured North America with Irish FA Representative Team
Other Interesting Facts:
In 1946 Gerry Bowler found himself on the losing side in the Irish Cup final as Distillery lost 3-0 to Linfield FC. He did However collect a County Antrim Shield winner’s medal when Distillery defeated Bangor FC Reserves 3-0 in a replayed final
Bowler scored just one goal during a career that spanned over 300 games. A penalty for Distillery against Cliftonville in 1946
Prior to signing for Pompey Bowler collected four ‘War-Time’ League caps for Ireland
Bowler sacrificed a £200 seasonal signing on fee and took a pay cut from £13 to less than £10 a week upon signing for Pompey in order to try his luck in the English League
When Bowler lined-up up for Northern Ireland against England at Manchester City’s Maine Road he faced debutant and Pompey Legend ‘Jolly Jack’ Froggatt. Froggatt celebrated his debut by scoring the second of Englands nine goals. Bowler however left the pitch with the unwelcome distinction of having been on the losing side and conceding seventeen goals in his first two international matches
Season by season games played via PompeyRama
Vital Pompey Author Chix
Statistics provided by: PompeyRama.com
Date: March 2009