Steve Bould had been a mainstay of the most frugal defensive unit in English football in the 1990s, and joined Sunderland 22 years ago today. Working alongside Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn, the Stoke-born central defender was integral to the solid defence that spanned the George Graham and Arsene Wenger eras at Highbury, making over 300 appearances in 11 years.
His transfer to Sunderland in the summer of 1999 was somewhat unexpected, given that he’d recently signed a new two-year deal at the North London club and he was a ripe-old age at 36. Some suspected his legs had gone, but Bould had been rejuvenated under Wenger, whose diet, nutrition and training regimes - coupled with the end of the Gunners’ notorious heavy drinking culture - had given him extra years to the extent that he would later describe his single year at the Stadium of Light as him at his “prime”.
Although he only earned two England caps back in 1994, Bould was a class act. Comfortable on the ball and with years of top flight experience, Sunderland won 60 per cent of the 23 games he played for us in 1999/00, before a toe injury brought his 20 year professional career to an end.
Peter Reid paid around £500,000 to bring him in as replacement for Andy Melville, who had left for Fulham after Sunderland’s record 105 point promotion season. Bould was named captain, and partnered Paul Butler at the centre of defence as Sunderland stormed the Premiership in the first half of the season, displacing Jody Craddock in the starting XI.
These were our glory days, and despite Bould’s age and short-lived career on Wearside, he quickly became a fan favourite and was influential in the development of the younger defenders in our squad at the time, including Craddock, Darren Williams and Darren Holloway. Here was a man who had won everything the domestic game had to offer - three league titles, two FA Cups, one League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup.
After retirement, despite being characterised as the archetypal old-school English stopper, he was keen to embrace the modern developments in the game returned to Arsenal as a youth coach, eventually graduating to become Wenger’s assistant. Bould was on the Emerates’ club’s coaching staff until May this year after clashing with the new methodology and scouting system being implemented by academy chief Per Mertesacker.