6 July 1959: David Bowen sold to Northampton Town for £5,000.

David Lloyd Bowen was born in Natyffyllon, near Maesteg on 7 June 1928  and after training as a surveyor in south Wales, Dave and the family then moved to Northampton where he joined the local League club in 1947 – the start of a career that took him onto Arsenal, glory as captain of Wales, unbelievable success as a manager, and finally to become the man who is (I believe) one of only two Arsenal players to have a stand named after him.

Dave signed for Arsenal for £1000 in the summer recess of 1950 as a reserve wing-half, and played his first game against Wolverhampton on March 24, 1951.

His first four years were made up of limited appearances (never more than 10) but in 1954/5 he made the breakthrough, with 21 games.

He also gained 19 caps for Wales, and captained Wales in the 1958 World Cup finals – and played in that team with John and Mel Charles, Cliff Jones, Ivor Allchurch and of course Jack Kelsey.

Wales drew all three matches in the group stages and so had a play-off against Hungary which they won, before being beaten 1–0 by Brazil in the quarter-finals (the Brazilian goal being scored by Pele).  As such Dave Bowen and Jack Kelsey were the first two Arsenal players to go the world cup finals.

In July 1959, Dave Bowen returned to Northampton Town as player-manager for a fee of between £5000 and £7000 (depending on which report you read, but either way a nice profit for Arsenal), and after giving up the playing part of his job after the first season, achieved the impossible, having the team promoted from the fourth division to the first in five seasons.  And this despite Northampton having what some (including me) would regard as one of the three worst football grounds in post-war league history!

This ground was shared with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, and as a result, it had only three sides from a football point of view.  Two of these were ramshackle terraces while the main stand was in such a bad state that in the long-overdue review of grounds following the Bradford fire, it was deemed unsafe (which those of us who had been in it knew only too well), and was immediately demolished.

Everything about the ground was ludicrous.  When new floodlights were installed in the 1980/1 season they failed when switched on for the first time, and the match was abandoned.  The ground closed, long after it should have been closed down, after a match on 12 October 1994.

Not surprisingly, having made it to the first division, Northampton headed back down the leagues as quickly as they had come up, as Dave had access to no finances to keep the club in the top leagues, and he left in 1967, after a second successive relegation.

He was however still in charge of Wales, whom he managed between 1964 and 1974.   He rejoined Northampton between 1969 and 1972 as general manager, and later secretary, while also working in journalism (as a reporter for the People) and bookmaking, before finally retiring.  His son Keith played for Northampton, Brentford and Colchester United.

He died in Northampton on 25 September 1995, at the early age of 67 – and the North Stand of Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium, the stadium that was built to replace the wreck of their previous home, is now named after him.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division

Arsenal today: Untold Arsenal 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *