On the 20th anniversary of the night when Arsenal claimed the most dramatic and historic of its titles at the same stadium, Steve Bould and his young Gunners won the FA Youth Cup Final over Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday.
Arsenal’s 2-1 victory on the road gave the team a 6-2 final aggregate score and secured a league and cup double in 2009 for the Gunners, who captured the Academy League trophy by defeating Tottenham on May 17. The 2009 FA Youth Cup title is the club’s seventh overall, and first since 2001.
A Sanchez Watt strike in the first half along with a Liverpool own goal in the second period was all that was needed to win this second leg matchup, on an evening much less tense and dramatic than the special night on Merseyside exactly two decades earlier.
The young Gunners held a three-goal advantage going into Tuesday night’s match, after dominating Liverpool 4-1 in the Final’s first leg at the Emirates on Friday. Gilles Sunu, Jack Wilshere, Sanchez Watt and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas all scored for Arsenal, who — in a scenario opposite to that of 20 years previous — could have afforded to lose by two clear goals yet still claim the title.
Steve Bould, a defender on that 1989 Arsenal team that snatched the league trophy away from Liverpool at Anfield, now manages the Gunners’ Under 18 team and was pleased with the club’s performance.
“It wasn’t anywhere near the level we reached on Friday, but we showed our quality in a few little patches,” the manager stated after the match. “I think we were always capable of stepping it up because Liverpool came back to 1-1 but we still got the result.”
When asked about capturing another title at Anfield exactly 20 years after the famous win, Bould said: “It’s different to winning as a player. This is not first team level but it doesn’t matter. The biggest, most pleasing part for me is not just the result but the fact that we’ve got good kids here and we think we are developing them as players.”
Defender Kyle Bartley added that “After winning the first leg 4-1, we had to keep focused. We had to avoid sloppy mistakes in order to win the game and we did that. We knew that if we kept Liverpool’s strikers quiet then we would do well.
“I think we were confident that we could be the best. We tried not to be too arrogant because sometimes that can slip into our game, but we thought we had a good chance,” he told arsenal.com’s Chris Harris after Tuesday’s triumph. “You don’t play northern teams in the Academy League until the play-offs and with the split divisions, you don’t know who’s the best.”
Teammate Jack Wilshere said the team “knew we had the strength in depth to do it, and it’s just great to win both the league and cup. We always had belief we could do it. We just carried on showing what we could do and the cups came.”
Bartley and Wilshere were among the nine youth players in Arsenal’s starting lineup Tuesday who are English, and Bould said in an interview with BBC London that club manager Arsene Wenger is keen to blood some domestic talent into the first team’s ranks.
“Arsene is always watching these kids and knows everything about them,” he said. “They are very talented and there is definitely some real home-grown talent here who could break through.”
And Bould added that rather than being judged on winning the Youth Cup, “What we should be judged by is how many kids we get in first teams. Now we want to see them getting in our first team (at Arsenal).”
“We’ve got Kieran (Gibbs) in at the minute, Jack (Wilshere) has been taken into the first team and we’re hoping we’ve got three, four or five more that are capable of that,” he continued. “But it’s quite difficult because the first team is young at the minute but we think we’re producing players.”
And the 2008-09 season “produced” by these players has been outstanding, according to its manager. “For these kids it has topped a great, great year,” said Bould.
“We know we are not in a results environment when we set out at the start of the season, but the way they have performed all year, they have been head and shoulders above most of the other teams in the country. I think we’ve got excellent players, and this is the icing on the cake.”