Obituary: Ray Bowden

By Ponting, Ivan | The Independent (London, England), September 29, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Obituary: Ray Bowden


Ponting, Ivan, The Independent (London, England)


RAY BOWDEN was paid perhaps the ultimate footballing compliment in March 1933 when the most successful manager the English game had then known asked him to replace a star performer in one of the greatest of all club sides.

The Arsenal boss Herbert Chapman was keen for the mild- mannered Cornishman, then plying his trade with Second Division Plymouth Argyle, to succeed the brilliant but ageing inside-forward David Jack in a Gunners team which was on the verge of lifting the Championship and which would sweep all before it as the decade progressed. So keen, in fact, that when Bowden refused his first approach, he made another, and another, agreement finally being secured on Chapman's third visit to Devon.

Such apparent reluctance to embrace the big time might seem peculiar to observers of the cash carnival that football has become in the 1990s, but in an era when all players received a maximum wage, a transfer did not have the same financial implications that it has today. Eight pounds a week was still only eight pounds a week, whether it emanated from the gleaming marble halls of Highbury or the more modest surroundings of Home Park.

Still, the manager's persistence paid off and Bowden, who cost pounds 4,500 and was Chapman's last major signing before his premature death in 1934, immediately justified the great man's judgement by helping Arsenal to clinch that term's title, though he had arrived too late for a medal.

He made up for that in comprehensive manner, playing a significant role as his new club went on to complete a Championship hat-trick over the next two campaigns. In addition, he took part in the 1936 PA Cup Final triumph over Sheffield United, won six England caps and enjoyed two outings for the Football League.

Bowden was a graceful ball- player whose slender, almost frail build belied a sinewy strength, although he would have made more than his 136 league and Cup appearances for the Gunners but for a nagging vulnerability to ankle injuries.

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