Top 5 managers in England: Gil Prescott’s 5th choice

Dave Bowen was born in Maesteg in 1928, after the war as a player he signed for Northampton Town and played twelve games between 1947 and 1950.

Spotted by Arsenal, he moved to Highbury in 1950 and stayed till 1959, making 146 appearances for the club. He also went on to play for and ultimately manage Wales between 1954 and 1959, Dave was the Welsh team’s captain when they were beaten 1-0 in the World Cup Quarter-Finals in Sweden in 1958, the great John Charles was injured and did not play.  In the Wales team that day were the Tottenham great Cliff Jones, Ivor Allchurch of Swansea Town and Arsenal keeper Jack Kelsey.  Brazil included a seventeen-year old lad named Pele, who scored the winner to knock Wales out of the tournament, also in the Brazilian team were Didi, Garrincha, Zagalo, I wonder what happened to young Pele?

Dave Bowens greatest personal achievement by far, was as the manager of Northampton Town, a club who had perennially had to seek re-election and that only spent four seasons outside the bottom four divisions in their 117 year history.

In The County Ground, which was a section of the Northampton County cricket club ground, they played their home games, modern fans would be amazed as it was a three sided ground.

Dave gained promotion from division four in 1961 and by 1965 he had managed to get them into what would be the English Premier League today.

In the 1962-63 season they were promoted mainly from the goals of Alec Ashworth and Frank Large, gaining promotion with an excellent 4-1 win away at Bury.

To say budgets were a little tight is perhaps an understatement, it is rumoured on getting his team into the old First Division he was told he had £20,000 to spend. In one season Northampton scored over 100 league goals and also reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup on two occasions.

Northampton Town 1964-65

Back Row (L-R):
Ray Osborne (secretary), Graham Carr, Joe Kiernan, Derek Leck, Bryan Harvey,
Terry Branston, Bobby Brown, Don Martin, Mike Everitt, Joe Payne (trainer)

Front Row (L-R):
Harry Walden, Theo Foley, Dave Bowen (manager), Bobby Hunt, Tommy Robson

There one and only season in the top-flight of English football was the 1965-66, the season started with a daunting visit to the then powerful Everton, it ended with a 5-2 defeat at Goodison Park. They did have their successes however they drew with Manchester United at Old Trafford and drawing with Arsenal at the County Ground, but did not win till the October of that year. Northampton beat West Ham United and Blackpool at home also beating Aston Villa at the County Ground, but on the budget Dave had, they conceded far too many goals and were relegated at the end of the season. Northampton Town had their highest gate ever when playing Fulham in a relegation battle when 24,523 spectators attended their game. Fulham who were also struggling at that time managed to win 4-2 at the County Ground with forward Steve Earle getting a hat-trick.

I remember Northampton coming to Blackpool and losing 3-0 in May on the last day of their one and only season in the First Division, Blackpool in those days was very much a traditional family seaside resort, perhaps a game and a place to remember for all the Northampton Town fans who attended that day.

First home game of the season on Wednesday August 25th against Arsenal

Today Dave Bowen’s achievements would be the equivalent of Dagenham & Redbridge gaining three promotions in five seasons and playing a season in the English Premier League.

Sadly, by 1969 and finance driven, the club had returned to Division Four again, but anyone who loved his football around that area would never forget the romance that was Northampton Town under Dave Bowen.  Nobody other than Dave Bowen has managed the same team all the way through the divisions, a few other clubs have done so but not with the same manager and I am very sure it is something that will never be repeated again.

The final league table showing Northampton being relegated

Dave Bowen died in Northampton in 1995 at the age of 67; the new North stand at Northampton Town’s new Sixfields Stadium is named in his honour.

Dave Bowen outside Northampton Town Football Club

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Design: David Ainsworth