David Lloyd Bowen was born in Maesteg on 7 June 1928. His professional career as a club footballer centred on two clubs – Northampton Town and Arsenal.
After only 12 games for Northampton Town, David caught the eye of the Arsenal scouts. In the summer of 1950 he signed for Arsenal and understudied Joe Mercer at wing-half.
David’s Arsenal debut arrived on 24 March 1951 versus Wolverhampton Wanderers. In 1952-53 Arsenal won the First Division title. However, David only made two appearances. Indeed, he only secured a regular place in the first team when Joe Mercer retired in 1954.
From the 1954-55 season, David played for Arsenal for the next decade. However, success for Arsenal proved elusive during that decade. He did play for a London XI in the final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, a two-legged affair that ended in a resounding 8 – 2 victory for FC Barcelona.
A natural leader, David captained Arsenal in his final two seasons at the club. In total he played 162 matches for Arsenal.
In 1959, David returned to Northampton Town as player-manager. His spell at the club lasted for eight years. Operating on a tight budget, he built a strong team and guided that team from the Fourth Division to the First Division in five seasons.
After their meteoric rise, David and Northampton Town experienced mixed fortunes. Relegation, in 1967, led to a parting of the ways only for David to enjoy a second managerial spell at the club, between 1969 and 1972. In 1970 he had the dubious honour of managing Northampton Town when they lost 8 – 2 to Manchester United in the FA Cup. The legendary George Best scored six goals on that occasion.
On the international stage, David made his Wales debut in September 1954, in a friendly against Yugoslavia. In total, he won 19 caps for Wales and was team captain during the 1958 World Cup finals. Along with goalkeeper Jack Kelsey, David was the first Arsenal player to feature in a World Cup finals.
In the 1958 tournament, Wales drew 1 – 1 against Hungary, 1 – 1 against Mexico, and 0 – 0 against hosts Sweden. They won a play-off against Hungary, 2 – 1, and secured a quarter-final match against Brazil. In that game, 17-year-old Pele scored the winner. Pele scored a further five goals in the tournament: a hat-trick in a 5–2 semi-final win over France and a brace in Brazil’s first World Cup tournament victory, 5–2 over Sweden.
David also enjoyed a ten year stint as Wales manager, between 1964 and 1974. During that period, he was active at Northampton Town as general manager, secretary and club director. He also found time to write about the game and serve as a summariser for ITV alongside commentator Hugh Johns during their coverage of the 1966 World Cup final.
David died on 25 September 1995 in Northampton. Later, the club named the North Stand at their Sixfields Stadium in his honour.