STEVE BOULD: My brilliant job sowing seeds of future Arsenal success
AS A player, his brute strength and solid defensive nous made him an invaluable member of three title-winning squads. Now, Steve Bould is helping to sow the seeds of Arsenal s future successes, heading up one of the most exciting youth set-ups in world fo
AS A player, his brute strength and solid defensive nous made him an invaluable member of three title-winning squads.
Now, Steve Bould is helping to sow the seeds of Arsenal's future successes, heading up one of the most exciting youth set-ups in world football.
"Along with Man United and Chelsea, this has to be one of the most sought after football jobs around," Bould enthuses to Ham&High Series Sport. "It's brilliant, I love doing it - it's a genuinely great job."
Since 2001, when he rejoined the club after ending his playing days at Sunderland, Bould has enjoyed a major role at Arsenal's impressive Academy set-up under Liam Brady.
With his Uefa coaching badges firmly under his belt, Bould has coached some of Europe's finest talents of tomorrow as the manager of the club's Under-18s.
His young charges currently head the FA Academy League with nine wins from 12 games, five points clear of Crystal Palace with a game in hand.
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"My main aim," he explains, "indeed the aim of everybody at the Academy, is to get a lad in the first team - that is what we are here for."
Several of his former players are now knocking on the first team door after progressing up to Neil Banfield's reserve side.
None more so than Jack Wilshere, the most talked-about English youngster this season.
"I have to say I haven't seen a great deal of Jack this year," admits Bould.
"Many players from his group have all come through and are doing very well."
As for 16-year-old Wilshere's speedy elevation to the fringes of Arsene Wenger's squad, Bould adds: "I'm not surprised at all that he is where he is and the speed he has got there.
"But I have to say this, whatever plaudits he gets - and he has been getting many when he plays in the Carling Cup - Jack is a very level-headed boy. Very level-headed indeed.
"He just gets on with it, that is his nature. If he goes through a rough spell he does not let it affect him at all, likewise he does not let all the praise get to his head. It just isn't Jack.
"He just wants to train, get out there on the pitch with the lads and play his football."
Wilshere may even play a part in Arsenal's FA Youth Cup tie at Aston Villa next Wednesday - just weeks after becoming the club's youngest ever player to appear in both the Champions League and Premier League.
"It's a double-edged sword," adds Bould. "We want - and indeed our aim - is to push them on.
"It's great a lot of these lads are moving up, but the press blows everything up out of all proportion and the expectation levels rise far too high for the stage they're actually at.
"Remember, they are just kids, teenagers, and it's all much too early for them. Fortunately the boss [Wenger] handles that side very, very well, as he has done with Jack."
But Bould concedes the task of getting any of his Under-18s into the first team is an extremely tough job in the fiercely competitive world of modern football.
"The way I see it, all the kids we're working with will come along and get a job somewhere, even if it is not Arsenal.
"I work with tremendous people like Roy Massey and Steve Leonard and the Academy is run in a first-class way in every aspect - exactly what you would expect at a club like Arsenal.
"A hell of a lot of our former players are now in the Premier League and the Championship and I don't think that is talked about enough.
"The rules state we can only get kids from a radius of a one and a half hour drive from the training ground. There are a lot of clubs in the Greater London area and that means the competition is tough."
Bould's job may soon become even tougher, and more integral to the club's future, if Fifa president Sepp Blatter realises his 'Six-plus-Five' dream - ensuring at least six players in the starting XI come from each club's home country.
Wenger's multi-national policy would come under serious threat if it was imposed, but Bould is still waiting to see what happens.
"It is not law yet and could be a long way off, if it happens at all," he smiles, "it does not place any extra pressure on me.
"It is a tough enough job getting a player in the first team because of the extremely high level of the first team squad. If it will happen, then it will happen."
Along with Wilshere, midfielder Mark Randall is also making an impression with the club, Gavin Hoyte has been impressive this term while another - England Under-19 skipper Henri Lansbury - is expected to make headway as the season progresses after a long absence with glandular fever.
All are English.
"Yes, Henri is looking more himself," adds Bould. "He has got over his fever and is getting there... but we don't put pressure on any of these lads.
"We have some very talented players and if and when they are ready we will know.
"The thing is," he adds enthusiastically, "we have another crop on the way who are looking really good..."