Tribute to the forgotten Arsenal and West Brom legend Don Howe



BORN 12.10.35

DIED 23.12.2015.






It wasn’t until I went into Wikipedia that I realised what a wonderful and varied life in football Don had carved out for himself.

His time at WBA needs to be covered as it makes impressive reading. He played a total of 379 games and scored 19 goals for them in twelve years and was voted as one of the top sixteen players ever to have worn the famous Baggies shirt.

He turned professional in 1952 but didn’t make his first team league debut until 1955.
His honours at WBA saw him part of the FA cup winning side of 1953-54 however and winners of the FA Charity Shield in 1954.

It was Billy Wright who tempted him away to Arsenal in 1964 and he was immediately made club captain, a position he held until a serious leg break curtailed his Arsenal career.

He played only two further games for the Gunners, totalling 70 in all from 1964 until 1966, when he retired from playing.

My memories of Don were as a hard tackling, no nonsense full back, who took no prisoners, but was very skilful at the art of defending.

He was also an unforgiving captain, expecting every other player to give 100%, just as he did in every game I was lucky enough to see him play in.

After Don retired, Bertie Mee offered him and he accepted the role of reserve team coach and promoted to first team coach when Dave Sexton left in 1967.

It was Don and Bertie who led our club to its first historic double in the 1970-71 season and the two men were like chalk and cheese in their manner, approach, and outward appearance.

Don was the typical track suited, no nonsense “working man” coach type of figure, while Bertie was the well-spoken, always dapper “upper class” type figure – whatever the outward differences were though, these two men enabled us Gooners to finally ram the Spuds taunts about being the only double winners straight back down their throats – a wonderful feeling I can assure you!!!

It was WBA’s turn to attract him back to the Midlands, by offering him the post of manager and, I believe this, and Bertie’s strange decision to break up the double winning side too soon, saw him accept their offer.

However, it wasn’t a success and, after WBA were relegated in 1973, he left to become the coach, and then, assistant manager of Leeds United.

After two years managing Galatasaray, he returned to The Arsenal as head coach to Terry Neil – once again, it seems, filling the “dead man’s boot’s” as Neil was sacked, and Don took over in 1984.

Don introduced young players like David Rocastle, Tony Adams, and Niall Quinn into the first team squad, but was unable to win any trophies and on the 22nd March 1986, he was sacked, and George Graham took over.

It is often said how GG left good players, but he was indebted to Don for the likes of the three players mentioned above as well as: Viv Anderson, David O’Leary, Kenny Sansom, Paul Davies, Graham Rix, Michael Thomas to name a few.

He was assistant manager to another Arsenal old boy, Bobby Gould, when Wimbledon shocked the footballing world, by beating the mighty Liverpool at Wembley in the 1988 cup final – out of the two, my personal opinion is that Don would have had a lot more to do with that win than Bobby!!

Another successful time saw him manage Coventry to stay in the first division by just one point, before he resigned in the 1992-93 season.

He re-joined The Arsenal as part of the Academy set up as Head Youth Coach and finally retired from coaching 2003.

His international career, both as a player and coach, was also impressive. He played in the 1958 World cup and then became part of the coaching set up in 1981 under Ron Greenwood and then Bobby Robson – he was also assistant for Terry Venables from January 1994 to June 1996 and retired after the semi-final defeat in Euro 1996.

Apart from my own recollections of Don, the stats are all from Wikipedia, but I am so pleased that Snowden asked me to do a review of this great footballing man.

He wouldn’t have broken into the Invincibles team in my opinion, as football has changed so much, but his superb knowledge regarding the art of coaching and defending would most certainly not go amiss regarding our current crop of players – I know when I watched him play, he put the fear of you know who up me, what his opponents must have felt, one can only imagine. R.I.P.

I would certainly class Don as a forgotten hero, what does anyone else think?



  1. Thanks Ken.
    My one regret is that ‘looking back in the past’ is what oldies do. This means that few if any of the present ‘youngie’ fans will read your excellent review.

    I doubt if the club will ever fully appreciate the power of his driving Arsenal forward to success.

    An unsung Arsenal hero if ever there was one. Hmm…..yes I can think of one other.but for information on him might take some digging around.

    However, I said there were two who were player, coach and manager. There is plenty of info on the other one so, how about it one day?

    Thanks again. Nice one.

    1. Well said snowden, albeit the truth about youngsters is sad as they miss out on so much knowledge. Todays instant gratification world means they miss out on so much of value and miss the wisdom of older folk. I presume your other one was Tom Whittaker then? The man with the magic sponge! TERRY NEILL OF COURSE ALSO PLAYED FOR AND MANAGED US! But he was not also our coach, so is excluded from your very short list presumably!

      1. Hello Sir Jon

        Of course your right.

        I can’t remember the name of the other unsung hero I am thinking of. I will have to check.

        Mean time only one former spuds player has managed Arsenal. (At least to my knowledge.)

        I think there have been 3 former Arsenal players who have managed spuds.

        GG of course. One just after the war and one in the 30s I think. Any offers as to their names? (This is not a quiz, as I can’t provide the answers.)

        1. snowden, Love the “sir” but probably the most inappropriate name I have ever been called. I even ask the waiters in Indian restaurant s not to call me sir. but they still do. Personally, I cannot even spell polite(oops! I just did!)!

          Terry Neill also managed Spurs for two seasons before getting sacked! I don’t knowany of their managers though who played for us in the thirties, though of course Herbert Chapman PLAYED for Spurs. Arthur Rowe managed Spurs after the war and he played for them though never for us and his “push and run” Spurs team won the old Division One title in 1951.

          I grew up next to a Spuds household in Palmers Green and can even tell you of Bert Bliss and Jimmy Dickinson who helped win the cup for Spuds 1921. The regular Spurs 1961 Double team was Brown, Baker, Henry, Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay, Jones, White, Smith, Allen, Dyson, with Medwin also featuring.
          I used to go to Arsenal one week and Spuds the next. Both were two shillings to get in and when Spuds lost the old Europen Cup semi final to Benfica in1962, I then realised I could make more noise, after the game, than the whole Spuds crowd. A great feeling to cheer while all were silent around me.

          I have a fascination with the enemy, as you can see!

          1. Hi Jon.
            How could I have forgotten Terry Neill being at spudland?

            I have two reasons.
            Objectively my nose was in my work. (Yes I know it was Sunday but I work from home and all my work is wanted ASAP by someone.)

            Subjectively. When he landed at spudland I just knew his next landing would be us and I feared the worse.
            I wasn’t on the bandwagon of rejoicing when it was announced he had landed at Highbury.

            I don’t know him. I am sure he is a great person but for me he wasn’t a manager.

            I see you have written about the present generation.
            Don’t despair that they are not interested in the history of the club because there is so much to be interested in and take up their time.
            We were limited to ‘books!’ ‘newspapers’ ‘magazines’ How boring compared to what there is today.
            The future is for ever forward ever exciting and international.

            We got sick of our parents spouting ‘When I was your age………..’’’’’ I don’t know about you my response to that was ‘yeh yeh yeh etc……..’ what a turn off!
            I have a smartphone I use it all the time except that I show my age because I use it for listening to talk radio and not music or watching videos.

            Teenagers seeing me with my smartphone in hand think I am watching videos. I don’t disappoint them with the truth.

            I teach online I use my desk top- yes desk top would you believe. They use their phone! Forget lap top or note pad.

            I envy them they have all this technology for years and years to come and for me just a short time so I am making the most of it.
            I tell them I envy them. That confuses them.

            Revenge is sweet.

  2. My memories of Don Howe as a player:

    Watching him as a WBA player shoulder-charge Joe Baker across the cinder track and over into the sunken terracing in the Clock-end half of the East Stand.

    Overjoyed when Arsenal signed him to replace the dreadful Ted Magill.

    Meeting him briefly when with other Arsenal players he was waiting to enter Turf Moor for a league game. Amazed that such an apparent hard man was softly spoken and politely insisting that the staff with the players kit should precede him into the ground.

    Watching sadly when he was carried off having broken his leg. It was clear that It was a bad break and I don’t think many were surprised that it finished his career.

  3. My most abiding memory of Don Howe was in his final year as a WBA player, when he captained them at home in a cup tie to a team called Arsenal! I think 4th or 5th round and we drew up there 3-3, after having been 1-3 up at one stage until a marvellous Don Howe inspired team almost won WBA the game. He had been an England player at RB shortly before then and was their best player.

    We won the Highbury replay, I think 2-0(or possibly 3-0) but oddly I best remember that away game. I also remember a limerick I made up a few yeard later, at the time when he finally left us to return to WBA, which caused a rumpus as he took several other coaches and staff from Arsenal with him, annoying Denis Hillwood, then our chairman. The limerick read thus:

    A football coach, name of Don Howe,
    Said he wouldn’t leave Arsenal just now
    But he soon changed his mind
    Leaving no staff behind
    And causing one hell of a row.

    I used to often make up limericks and short stories about Arsenal matters, some from way before I even born, either from my reading of books or family tales of Arsenal handed down by Father and Grandpa! And to think I ended up by venting my spleen on here!

    But many other DH memories too, esp him breaking his leg, very sadly and ending his playing time with us

    Another great read Ken and please keep them coming.

    1. Thanks to everyone for commenting – it does seem as only us oldies are interested though so I aim to do two more – Alan Sunderland for Phil and Cliff Bastin for SueP… then I could look at AW’s five worst buys!!!!! 😢😢😢😢😢

        1. Did think about him, but then there is Eddie Kelly, Ray Kennedy and George Eastham!!!

          Perhaps I should do one a week, rather than one a day – there are so many players who fit the heading!!!

          1. NO KEN, NOT UNLESS YOU ARE PLANNING TO LIVE TO TWO HUNDRED. One a DAY is fine, five a day would be better still.

      1. “then I could look at AW’s five worst buys!!!!! ”

        It depends on the headline the site gives it as to weather Loose Cannon will be tempted into reading it.
        If he does read it. He will be your life long fan.
        I can see him now prowling over the words on his lap top his eyes going round and round in dizzy excitement.

        I hope for his trousers and his chair’s sake that in all his excitement he doesn’t wet himself.

        knowing as he likes referring to Fergi so much, may be he’ll write on fergies 5 worse buys. All worse than or better than Arsene ever did. After all Fergie is always better in his posts.

        A heading for your excellent piece here that might have caught the attention and reading of a few youngies would be something like “How Don trumps your Don every time. “

        I was deeply fascinated while still well at junior age about the players who played in decades well before I was born when even my Dad was a tot. Now that all younger fans care about are shirt and kit changes, daft videos of non football matters, virtual football(yawn!!) hairstyles etc.

        I feel a fish out of water among all but our own generation of fans today and have almost nothing in common with kids at all, at least not Arsenal wise. Perhaps I am just falling out of love with all about modern football, save only the actual game itself . Nothing else in football interests me at all and much repulses me,TBH. I realise I am in love with somthing that no longer exists and fear the end is near for me and football in this age. The greed is poison to me! Sigh!

        1. Blimey Jon, sounds as if you’re going to commit hari kari!!!!

          It is disappointing I agree with you regarding our history, but that’s the way it is nowdays I guess.

          I have just finished the article on Cliff Bastin and really enjoyed learning about his life in football.

          1. KEN If I were inclined to commit hari kari, I’d have to have my wife do it for me, as I am too much of a coward. Of course that would make it murder but what would I care, I’d be gone! She’s even mixing the poison as I write. Damned Hercule Poirot is never around when you need him! Now, of course Hercule played for Arsenal before we transferred him to that club in Belgium. I may be wrong on that though!

          2. Ken.. don’t be disappointed, just because the ‘youngsters’ haven’t commented, doesn’t mean they’ve not read them. It’s pretty quiet in the gooner blogosphere right now, not a great deal happening anywhere!
            I’ve not commented until now, but have read them all and just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to research and put all these articles together 👍

          3. Thanks Sue, my problem is I’m hooked now and have just done another three!!!

            My wife is going mad and I have to do them while she’s watching Heartbeat or Poirot!!!

            Remember Eddie Clamp Sue? A real blast from the past as they say – I’m becoming an anorak, I really am.

  4. Great article! Made me sad and proud reading it.

    Along with Terry Neill, GG; Joe Hulme also played for The Arsenal and managed the Spuds.
    Clive Allen was at The Arsenal and was caretaker manager of Spudheads though infamously never played for us.

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