By David Barber
Sir Walter Winterbottom’s story has always been one that needed to be told. Sir Walter, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 88, could never be prevailed upon to write his own biography.
But now Graham Morse, his son-in-law, has produced Sir Walter Winterbottom: The Father of Modern English Football to put the record straight on this highly influential man.
Sir Walter’s name will be unfamiliar to many. He is known as the first England manager, in charge of our national team for 139 internationals from 1946 to 1962, but more than that he was an innovator of modern coaching, sports administrator and a man ahead of his time.
He had a profound effect on English football – he was also The FA’s Director of Coaching for the same 16-year period – and can genuinely be said to have laid the foundations for England’s World Cup success in 1966.
He managed all the great names from Tommy Lawton to Bobby Charlton and inspired many to become coaches: Ron Greenwood, Bill Nicholson, Jimmy Hill and Bobby Robson were among his ‘disciples’.
Morse’s extremely well-researched book, running to more than 400 pages, gives us an unparalleled inside track on the man and his achievements.
Many of the obvious questions from football historians and others are answered in full by a writer whose background makes him perfectly placed to do so.
How good was Walter as a player? What did England’s top performers think of him as a coach? Why did he resign and why was he overlooked for the job when The FA appointed a new Secretary after Sir Stanley Rous became FIFA’s President?
Walter’s playing career is generally skimmed over in the history books. He was ‘an amateur centre-half’ at Manchester United. In fact, he was a First Division regular in the 1936-37 season and was being looked at as a possible England player.
The great Stanley Matthews had suggested at the start of Walter’s time as manager that the country’s top players didn’t need to be taught how to play football. But Morse has spoken to several other household names in the England team who clearly thought the world of Walter.
Billy Wright, the first 100-cap player, said: “(Walter was) a man of many parts: a practical man, yet a visionary; a man of action, yet an idealist; a teacher, yet a student.”
The chapter ‘Rejection’ runs through the tumultuous year of 1962 in which Walter was ideally suited to be FA Secretary but mysteriously didn’t get the job, took England to the World Cup quarter-finals in Chile and resigned from The FA to join the Central Council of Physical Recreation as General Secretary. As usual Morse has spoken to all the right people.
Walter was knighted in 1978 and his legacy continues to inspire many in football today, especially with last year’s opening of the new national football centre at St. George’s Park. He was one of a kind, hugely important to English football history, and Morse has told his story brilliantly.
You can order your copy of the book now by clicking here.
By David Barber