Before you ask ‘what are you talking about, David Howells is still going strong’ I’m not referring to the youngest chess Grandmaster in Britain, David Wei Liang Howell, who is of course still a tremendous athlete. I am actually referring to the ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder who racked up 277 appearances for the lilywhites between 1984 and 1998. Howells was part of the Tottenham side that won the F.A. Cup in 1991, and also helped Totttenham achieve 3rd place in the old Division 1 in the 1989/90 season, which Tottenham have not bettered since. Now 42, David ‘Houses’ Howells is still playing football, turning out for The Crown and Anchor Nomads every Sunday.
Howells began his career at Tottenham as a striker, and after joining the club in July 1984 as a YTS trainee. A regular scorer in the youth and reserve teams, Howells managed to make his debut in the Spurs first team 18 months after joining the club, scoring against Sheffield Wednesday on 22nd February 1986 at Hillsborough. However it was to be his only appearance of the season, and Howells did not feature regularly at Spurs until the 1987-88 season where his career at White Hart Lane began in earnest with 11 appearances.
Howells was eventually converted into a defensive midfielder at White Hart Lane, and his performances were characterised by hard work and pure graft. However, that is not to suggest Howells could not pass, as he was able of keeping the ball moving quickly, if not hit 30yard passes a la Hoddle. Howells was by no means a fans favourite at White Hart Lane, and was perhaps overshadowed by some of the clubs more illustrious playing staff. During his 12 years at the club, Howells played alongside Glen Hoddle, Ray Clemence, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker, Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinsmann. However, Howells would run himself into the ground for the shirt, so his more ‘talented teammates’ could play, and many older supporters will not forget his efforts for the club.
The highlight of Howells’ career would undoubtedly have been Tottenham’s FA Cup triumph over Nottingham Forest in 1991. Many that watched the game will remember that after Tottenham had lost Paul Gascoigne to injury and were trailing 1-0, Howells’ energy and enthusiasm in the middle of midfield compensated for Gascoigne’s brilliance, eventually helping Spurs to a famous 2-1 victory over Brian Clough’s side. My own personal recollection of David Howells comes later in the 1996/97 season. Tottenham lost 4-3 to West Ham at Upton Park in February 1997, with Howells scoring a penalty for Tottenham. Unknown to Spurs fans, Howells had lost his father the same day, but still turned out for the club. Howells’ wife Debbie also suffered serious illness throughout the latter stages of his career at White Hart Lane, and yet the midfielder carried on churning out performances for the Lilywhites, inspite of what must have been a difficult period in his private life.
Howells scored 22 goals, made 277 appearances, and won the F.A. Cup in his 14 years at the club. At his testimonial in August 1997, Tottenham lost 2-0 to Fiorentina at White Hart Lane, and it was a shame that only 14,605 attended (although I seem to recall there being some building work on the Paxton Road upper tier that may have affected the attendance). However, Howells played on for the remainder of the 1997/98 season, making 20 appearances. Howells left Tottenham in 1998, and played for Southampton (scoring against Arsenal for the Saints) and Bristol City before retiring due to a persistent knee injury.
Howells was Tottenham through and through, and played in some of the best Spurs sides we have seen over the last 30 or so years. Although his understated performances may have seen the midfielder overlooked for praise, he is still remembered fondly by supporters who frequented the Lane in the late 1980s and 1990s. Today, aside from playing Sunday League, Howells runs a string of soccer schools in eight countries across Europe and, still living in Surrey, supports Tottenham to this day.