West Ham United are convinced Lee Bowyer is playing the best football of his career.
"Since Lee's been at West Ham, it's not quite clicked for him," said Hammers manager Alan Curbishley. "He's been in decent positions, but not been able to get that goal. I remember one pre-season game at Norwich he got in three or four times but did not get the goal. You start to wonder whether it's ever going to go for him. Lee made his name getting into the box and finishing. I know, I had him at Charlton.
"He didn't finish the season with us. He wasn't in the team that kept us up. I told him I thought he was trying too hard. I know that sounds crazy. He had a couple of chances at Liverpool last year and one hit the crossbar, but I genuinely felt he was trying too hard, so I sat him down and told him."
Bowyer thrives on arriving at the right time in the area after someone else has done the work. On Saturday, Carlton Cole twice turned provider.
"I'm happy I got a couple of chances and I managed to score," he said. "I could count the chances I had last year on one hand. I'm having one or two every game now. Carlton Cole has set up three of my goals. It's like big Carl Leaburn at Charlton. It takes time for players to get to know my runs.
"I just want to play for West Ham. It's the club I love and hopefully this will carry on. I don't think I will ever get close to England again. I scored 17 goals one season and I didn't get a call. I've just accepted it. I want to do well for West Ham now. I came back to prove to everyone what they saw last time was not the real me."
Centre back Matthew Upson believes the 30-year-old Bowyer, who won his only England cap against Portugal in 2003, has finally grown up.
He said: "Lee has matured a lot, which I'm sure he recognised he had to do. His confidence is such now that he's our leading scorer. And if you look at the statistics, the ground he covers every match is right up there.
"Some people have made their minds up about him - but, from his performances, it's clear he's good enough to do it at any level."