Scoring in front of a crowd of 123 at the Brentwood Center in Essex is a far cry from playing at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium with over 53,400 spectators.
Jamal Lowe’s journey through seven tiers of English football has been nothing short of remarkable, with the leader often having to triumph over adversity.
Just over six years ago, Lowe combined non-league play for Hampton & Richmond Borough with his job as a PE teacher at a school in New Malden.
His goals in 2015/16 helped the Beavers win the Isthmian League Premier Division, propelling them and him into the National League South.
Having already ticked off League Two and Conference Premier during his time at Barnet, Lowe continued to perform in League One with Portsmouth.
Signing for Pompey in January 2017, his four goals in five games at the end of the 2016/17 season helped them win the League Two title, Lowe aimed 17 times as they reached the play-offs and won the Checkatrade trophy in 2018/19.
His exploits at Fratton Park earned him a first Championship chance with Wigan Athletic, with Lowe playing alongside current Cherries team-mate Kieffer Moore in his only season at DW Stadium.
Three turbulent years saw him suffer relegation with the Latics due to a points deduction, taste final Championship play-off heartbreak with Swansea, earn his first senior cap for Jamaica and win promotion to the Premier League with the Cherries.
By replacing Moore in the final stages of Saturday’s 4-0 loss to champions Manchester City, Lowe wrote the final chapter of his own Roy of the Rovers football fairy tale.
The 28-year-old told afcb.co.uk: “Although it was a brief appearance, stepping onto the pitch and being able to say I made a Premier League appearance is something I dreamed of when I was child.
“There were times in my life that didn’t seem to happen and neither did I play another game in the Football League. I feel blessed, honored and proud to have done so.
“Since returning to the Football League with Portsmouth, my goal has always been to get to the top, but it’s been a tough journey.
“There have been quite a few clubs, quite a few moves, living in hotels and moving the children around the country with the wife.
“When I moved here, the whole club’s aim was to win promotion to the Premier League and we managed to do that last season. Here we are!”
Released by QPR as a youngster – because Raheem Sterling received a scholarship ahead of him – Lowe came through the academy ranks at Barnet where he played under former Holland international Edgar Davids.
He had several loan spells outside the league before securing permanent moves to St Albans City, Hemel Hempstead Town and then Hampton & Richmond Borough at the start of their award-winning campaign.
To supplement his dwindling income after dropping out in the leagues, Lowe received a coaching job from Jon Nurse, a former Barnet teammate who also managed to help him land a full-time position as a coach. physical education at Coombe Hill School in New Malden.
Lowe picks up the story: “When I was at QPR Raheem was in the year below me but he played two years more so was above me.
“When it came to deciding who was going to get a scholarship, they told me I did well, but they said they had a 14-year-old who was already playing for the youth team.
“They said they thought he was going to be the next big thing and fair play for them because they were right!
“Raheem has had an amazing career and I can’t blame him. They made a great decision. He’s one of the best players in England so I can’t complain too much.
“Playing for Edgar Davids at Barnet was a bit surreal. He was a massive player and character who had done a lot in the game and played at the highest level.
“It was the first time that I was around someone of this stature and the first time that I was around someone who had played higher than League Two.
“The way he behaved was different and his attitude towards things was different. At first it was hard to get used to.
“He had Champions League standards and we didn’t, so trying to adapt to his way of thinking was a bit of a revelation at the start of my career.
“As you go down the leagues the money earns less and less. I had a few responsibilities. I didn’t have kids or a house but I had a car, my phone and he there was rent to pay mom and dad.
“I completed coaching with Jon Nurse and he was able to get me into a full-time school. I lived in Harrow and traveled an hour through London to get to work.
“I was a physical education teacher from reception to 6th grade. I could easily keep doing it now because it’s a job you can do until retirement age.
“It wasn’t my passion, it was a makeshift thing. This was another big learning curve. I’m not saying I have more experience than anyone, but I saw a different world.
“I wasn’t in an academy all the way and I wasn’t playing with the Under-21s, Under-23s and then the first team.
“I was working a nine to five and doing a morning club and after school club. I coached the Met Police under 15s and under nines and trained with Hampton & Richmond in the evenings.
“When I was playing in front of 100 people, I always hoped to play in the Premier League one day, but there were times when I didn’t think it would happen.
“I’ve always had this self-confidence and determination to try to make it happen. For it to happen the way it did, you can’t plan it and I would be lying if I said I saw things happen like that.
“The further down you go the harder it gets physically, mentally and financially. You go through the trials and tribulations and being able to see all the leagues makes me appreciate this opportunity even more.
When asked if he felt this was his reward for the hard work he had done, Lowe replied, “The saying goes, hard work pays off.
“Besides hard work, it’s perseverance for me because there have been a lot of ups and downs. It’s about whether you stick with it or give in. I’m not one to give in.
“The road has been bumpy. It’s about whether you can carry on when things aren’t going well or things aren’t going your way.
“I’m hungry, always have been and always will be. I don’t think there will ever be a step or level or height that I reach that makes me think “okay, I’m satisfied now, I won’t push myself”. My personality and way of life is to strive for more and keep pushing myself.
“It’s a whole new world that I’ve been able to see and experience and it just makes me more grateful and humbled to be able to do this full time.”
Lowe, who scored seven crucial goals last season, will be hoping to retain his place in the Cherries squad for Arsenal’s visit to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
He said: “They started the season very well with back-to-back wins. I think everyone watched his new Amazon documentary this week to see the ins and outs of the club.
“We will be looking to impact the game and try to make it as physically uncomfortable as possible.
“Arsenal will be a different challenge for Manchester City, as will Liverpool after this and every game. We just have to attack each game as it comes.
“We massively earned three points against Aston Villa, it was an amazing performance. We were up against the best team in the league at Manchester City, but we didn’t fold.
“We held on and tried to impact the game as much as possible, but it wasn’t meant to be. This is something we will try to learn from and try to improve on in the future.
Click on the arrows above to see a selection of photos from Jamal Lowe’s career.