This column usually looks to the future and the players that could be turning out for Arsenal in the years to come, but on this occasion it seems more appropriate to focus on a distinguished figure from the club’s history.
It emerged today that Don Howe, who served Arsenal well in many guises, has died at the age of 80. Howe was an Arsenal player and a manager before later coaching at youth level, and he made a significant contribution towards helping many of the club’s young starlets get their careers off the ground.
During his time as manager, for instance, Howe gave opportunities to the likes of David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Martin Keown and Martin Hayes, players who would go on to make significant contributions for the club in the years ahead.
Keown, of course, enjoyed much success after returning to Arsenal for a second spell, whilst Rocastle, Thomas and Hayes all featured in the dramatic title winning season on 1988/89.
Howe later coached Arsenal’s youngsters himself, and guided the U18s to back-to-back FA Youth Cup successes in 2000 and 2001, a feat that hasn’t been repeated since.
The team that overcame Coventry City with a 3-1 aggregate victory in 2000 contained players who would go on to represent the first-team in some capacity, such as Graham Stack, Moritz Volz and Jermaine Pennant, whilst Steve Sidwell, one of the most successful graduates of the Arsenal academy since its reformation, also benefitted from Howe’s tutelage.
Jay Bothroyd, meanwhile, saw his Arsenal career come to an abrupt end after throwing his shirt at Howe when he was substituted in the Premier League Youth Cup Final against West Ham United, but the forward paid tribute to his former coach today, saying that he owes him for all he has achieved.
In 2001 Arsenal overcame Blackburn Rovers 6-3 on aggregate in the FA Youth Cup Final, with players such as Jeremie Aliadiere, Jerome Thomas and Justin Hoyte making the squad, all of whom proceeded to make first-team appearances for the club.
Howe’s dedication to Arsenal’s youth system served the club well, but he was always committed to developing the next generation of prospects and he continued to oversee youth coaching schemes across the country after he left the Gunners in 2003.
Howe will be missed by all at Arsenal, and his work with regards to helping develop the club’s youngsters will never be forgotten.