Born: Stoke, November 16, 1962
Position: Academy Coach
Previous clubs as a player: Stoke City, Torquay (loan), Arsenal, Sunderland
Joined Arsenal (for the second time): 2001
Honours as a player with Arsenal: League title 1989, 1991, 1998, FA Cup winner 1993, 1998, League Cup winner 1993, ECWC winner 1994
Arsenal appearances: 348+24
Arsenal goals: 8
England caps: 2
By Lambros Lambrou
No-one can dispute that Steve Bould is a winner. In his playing and coaching career, success has been a common thread. The big difference now is that sometimes losing can be winning. “As a player and as a coach I like to win,” he begins. “If I am honest, I get upset if we haven’t won games in the Under-18s, but ultimately the measure of me being successful in my job is seeing players make it into our first team, and secondly helping our players develop good careers for themselves in the game.
“For example,” explains Steve, “we played Chelsea the other week in a game that we lost 3-2. I was upset that we lost a game that in truth could have gone either way. But it was such a technical game, with so much good play from both sides, our lads took so much from it that could help them in their progression as players.
“I want to win every game, I enjoy it when we win FA Youth Cups and Academy trophies and to do that is great but I believe if we develop players in the right way, we will eventually end up winning games and trophies too.
“We have a chance of winning the League and the Academy Trophy as Under-18s. It will be good to do it, but I am not absolutely sure whether winning trophies as youth level translates into helping you win trophies and Championships when playing for the first team. I definitely believe that winning trophies makes it easier to win more. When I was a player, I never even contemplated winning the League, but once we won our first Championship, we all grew in confidence and desire to win more, but I think doing it at the top level is a different challenge.
"Maybe it does help winning FA Youth Cups for example and it will be interesting to see what the experience of our lads who have been trophy winners will be when it comes to doing it at the top level. Maybe having experienced winning trophies at youth level provides them with what they need to know how to win trophies at the top. Time will tell I suppose.”
Steve, no doubt, draws on his experience as a player when coaching his charges, but the Gunners legend insists that the game, especially for defenders, is so very different from his day. “I believe that for every sport every seven or so years they become almost revolutionised in that they become, faster, more powerful, more technical than before and football is even more different. In our game, we also have the rule changes. I could not tell you what the offside rule is now,” he grins.
“You could not step up with your arm out and scream offside like we used to. That is not an area you can really coach any more. Also, you cannot get away with going to ground or any real aggressive tackling the way we used to nowadays. So, while there are some principles that persist, passing on what I used to do as a player has to be adapted to the modern game.”
One of those principles is the value of closing down opponents and pressing with great energy. “Over Christmas,” reports Steve, “I looked at the way that our Under-18s were playing and I felt that we were fine when we had the ball, but poor when we didn’t have it. We used to sit back and let opposing teams play. Since we came back in January we have had a bigger emphasis on winning the ball back and closing opponents down quickly and that has improved us immensely, even with the ball. The players are seeing the benefits of that improvement and are now more confident and enjoying the game more too. Ultimately, if it is good enough for Barcelona and Messi, it is good enough for our lads too.”
Although the Under-18s and first team are distinct entities, Steve is convinced that the fortunes of the first team reflect on his youngsters. “I believe that what goes on in the first team repeats itself in the Under-18s, not necessarily with results, but mainly with styles of play," he says. "The younger players look to the first team to learn from and copy and they bring that into their own games. Also, to a certain extent, uplifting wins like the one the other week against Spurs do lift the younger players, but it is more about what they pick up from the senior players and how they do things.”
Even as a player, Bould appeared to be one of the most likely to progress in the game after he had hung up his boots. But when asked by the Arsenal Matchday Programme some 15 or so years ago as to whether he would consider becoming a manager, his response was a resolute no. Today, there has not been much of a shift in his view. “I think when I was asked back then I didn’t even contemplate going into coaching, so you never say never, but I feel management is not for me. It is too intrusive on all aspects of your life.
“I enjoy what I do. I get massive satisfaction from seeing players improve and make careers out of the game. The ultimate is seeing players we have worked for running out of the tunnel playing for our first team,” enthuses Steve. “I honestly feel I have the best job in the world. Doing what I love, with the facilities and footballing philosophy we have at this club, I have a fantastic job.”Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source