Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater joined Hull City on a one month loan in November 1999 and started four League games for Warren Joyce’s side.
Stephen Michael Bywater was born in Manchester and came through the youth team system at Rochdale. He made his senior debut in a January 1998 Football League Trophy match against Carlisle United at the age of sixteen and a half, his early promise was sufficient to encourage Premier League side West Ham United to sign him a month after his senior debut for a £250,000 fee. Bywater spent eight years at West Ham – he made only five senior appearances for the Hammers in the first four of those years, enjoying loan spells at Wycombe Wanderers, Hull City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City that added a further six appearances. He broke into the Hammers’ first team on a regular basis in January 2004, eight months after the club had been relegated to the second tier, and kept his first team place for much of the subsequent 2004/05 season as West Ham finished in the top six and beat Preston North End in the Championship Play-Off Final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium – Bywater was replaced by Jimmy Walker in the latter weeks of the season but came on as substitute in the Final.
With West Ham back in the Premier League Bywater was usurped by ex-Tiger Roy Carroll and veteran Shaka Hislop, leading to a three month loan spell at Coventry City where he made 14 appearances. His final game for West Ham came in November 2005 when he came off the bench to replace Hislop, his 68th senior appearance for the Hammers.
In August 2006 Bywater joined Derby County, initially on loan then two weeks later permanently for a £225,000 fee. His first Derby appearance in August 2006 was against Hull City and he was a regular first team presence throughout the 2006/07 season as Derby won promotion to the Premier League via a play-off victory against West Bromwich Albion – Bywater’s second play-off final win in two years. Stephen started Derby’s disastrous 2007/08 season, which yielded a record low number of Premier League points in a season, but was dropped in December 2007 and again replaced in the first team by Roy Carroll – Bywater spent the second half of the season on loan at Ipswich Town, making 17 starts. Relegated back to the Championship, Derby again turned to Bywater in October 2008 as Carroll’s off-field issues affected his game. He remained first choice keeper for another season and a half before ending the 2010/11 season with two months on loan at Cardiff City, making 10 starts.
He left Derby in the 2011 close season having made a total of 167 appearances for the Rams. It was at Derby that Bywater began wearing the squad number 43 in recognition of his former West Ham mentor and veteran goalkeeper Les Sealey, who died after a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 43. It was also at Derby in 2010 that Bywater created an art installation of questionable taste in the garden of his Derbyshire home that featured a horse box, a portaloo, some mattresses, a traffic cone, a sex doll and some spray paint – this work drew complaints from local residents and he ended up selling his work and donating the proceeds to a local charity.
In September 2011 Bywater joined League One side Sheffield Wednesday on an extended loan that was turned into a permanent transfer when the January 2012 transfer window opened. His first season at Hillsborough ended in promotion as he made 34 starts but his game time was restricted to Cup competitions during the 2012/13 season as Chris Kirkland took over netminding duties. Having made a total of 38 appearances for the Owls, Bywater joined Millwall in July 2013 but in a season and a half he managed only 9 appearances and a loan spell at Gillingham that yielded a further 14 starts. In January 2015 he joined Doncaster Rovers and made 21 appearances before spending the summer of 2015 playing in India for Kerala Blasters. In January 2016 he returned to English football and signed for Burton Albion, where he stayed for the last four and a half seasons of his long career. The 62 games he played for Burton between 2016 and 2020, when he hung up his boots, took his career total over 23 years to 427 appearances.
In his younger days at West Ham Bywater was regularly involved in the England under-age setup. He made three apperances for England’s under-19 team in September and October 1999 against Switzerland, Spain and Cyprus, then won a fourth cap at Under-19 level in March 2000 when he played the second half of a match against France, replacing his future Sheffield Wednesday team-mate Chris Kirkland. In May 2001 he made his England Under-21s debut against Mexico, again replacing Chris Kirkland at half time, and went on to win further under-21 caps against Greece in June 2001, Netherlands in August 2001, Italy in March 2002, Portugal in March 2003 and Serbia & Montenegro in June 2003 – the last of these six Under-21 appearances came in a match played at Hull City’s KC Stadium.
Date/Place of Birth: 7 June 1981, Manchester
Hull City First Game: 23 November 1999, Halifax Town H (League Division 3), 18 years, 169 days old
Hull City Final Game: 18 December 1999, Carlisle United H (League Division 3), 18 years, 194 days old
Rochdale (1997-1998), West Ham United (1998-2006), Wycombe Wanderers (1999, loan), Hull City (1999, loan), Wolverhampton Wanderers (2001, loan), Cardiff City (2002, loan), Coventry City (2005, loan), Derby County (2006, loan), Derby County (2006-2011), Ipswich Town (2008, loan), Sheffield Wednesday (2011-2012, loan), Sheffield Wednesday (2012-2013), Millwall (2013-2015), Gillingham (2014, loan), Doncaster Rovers (2015), Kerala Blasters (2015), Burton Albion (2016-2020)
Hull City Record
Career: 4 apps, 0 goalsStephen Bywater