Tribute to loyal Arsenal servant Steve Burtenshaw RIP

David Fensome honours Arsenal man Steve Burtenshaw who has sadly passed at the age of 86

Tribute to loyal Arsenal servant Steve Burtenshaw RIP

Steve Burtenshaw gave Arsenal loyal service

Warm tributes have been issued to mark the passing of Arsenal man, Steve Burtenshaw, who has died, at home, at the age of 86.

While it is with The Gunners, and Brighton and Hove Albion that he was most readily associated, those tributes came from all the clubs he was connected with: Everton, Sheffield Wednesday, and QPR amongst them.

Burtenshaw’s association with Arsenal was long and varied. At different times he was coach, scout, and caretaker manager, and at all times committed to the club and perhaps an undervalued servant of it. 

After a one club playing career as a dependable wing-half at the Goldstone Ground, he began coaching with the same club. He came to greater prominence, however, at Highbury, albeit as a small cog in a big and successful machine.

Under Mee, Burtenshaw was part of the backroom staff, as reserve team coach, where he was shaped by the manager’s discipline and organisation, and Don Howe’s tactical awareness and innovative approach. It was the period that Burtenshaw would perhaps look back as his apprenticeship in football leadership.

With the reserves Burtenshaw won the Football Combination twice, the Football Combination Cup, and the London FA Challenge Cup. 

After winning the Fairs’ Cup in 1970, and the ‘double’ in 1971 Arsenal looked set fair to continue at the helm of English football for a generation with an established boss, a coach in the vanguard of the game, and a young, ambitious group of players. But Highbury soon rocked beneath the bombshell of Howe’s resignation.

Mee had seen enough of Burtenshaw to know he was the man to turn to in order to fill Howe’s shoes.

Burtenshaw though not only had the weight of expectation befitting of three trophies in two seasons to contend with, but also the added, tactical problem of assimilating the ball playing Alan Ball into a side whose success was built largely on bypassing midfield.

Mee had ambitions to dominate English football, but doing so playing expansive football. Burtenshaw fought valiantly to turn Mee’s dream into reality but in his attempts to do so he began slowly to lose the dressing room.

With this and Mee’s at times inconsistent thinking, Arsenal lost their intensity and focus, and after a harrowing start to the 1973/74 season, culminating in a 5-0 defeat at Sheffield United, Burtenshaw resigned.  

He returned to Highbury in 1981 as chief scout, and once again stepped into the breach when Howe resigned in March 1986, when he held the fort as caretaker boss until the end of the season. When Graham was appointed, Burtenshaw returned to his position as chief scout and there he stayed until 1996.  

There is a lovely photo of him in the Anfield dressing room after ‘that game’ in 1989 smiling and holding the lovely old league title trophy: it is how I will remember him.

Rest well Steve Burtenshaw, a man of Arsenal. 


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