ABOUT THE BOOK
Today it seems almost unbelievable that in 1946, a 34 year old son of an Oldham mill worker, who had never managed any football team, should be given the job of managing the England team. It was true that he had played for Manchester United before the war, but only for two seasons before a spinal disease ended a promising playing career. When he was appointed FA Director of Coaching and England team manager he faced stubborn resistance from players, managers and club directors who scorned the idea that you could coach football.
He was a teacher by profession and had been a PE lecturer at Carnegie College, but that cut no ice with legends like Tommy Lawton and Stanley Matthews. At his first training session with the England team Lawton exploded. “God forbid,
you’re going to tell Stanley Matthews how to play outside right? And me, you’re going to tell me how to score goals. You’ve got another think coming.”
He had a dual role, but his primary job was FA Director of Coaching, tasked with introducing coaching to English football. Clubs then did not have coaches: they had suited managers who bought and sold players, and trainers who demanded endless laps round the pitch and sprints up and down the terraces to get fit.
Giving the ball to players in training was frowned upon. ‘That way they’ll be more hungry for it on Saturday’ was a common remark. “A billiard player doesn’t train by walking round the table,” Walter retorted.
At one of the first coaching courses he held Walter asked the 58 trainers who were present if they had read the laws of the game. Only three had. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising that when he questioned them they didn’t know the answers either. Their smug attitude was, “We know it all, and we don’t need new ideas. We have always played it this way and it’s a good way.”
Even at the FA there was little support or appetite for change. An FA selection committee of ten picked the team. Walter once asked them if any of them had watched the goalkeeper that they had selected that season. None of them had!
But gradually he overcame these formidable obstacles and brought about radical change, but it was a monumental task that occupied all of his sixteen years at the FA. His combination of the scholarly and the practical inspired a new generation of coaches. Bobby Robson described him as a prophet and men like Ron Greenwood, Bill Nicholson and Jimmy Hill became known as his disciples. Greenwood and Robson went on to become not only outstanding club managers but also manage England.
He established a national coaching network at all levels that was admired 10 internationally but at the same time enjoyed many years of success on the pitch. He remains the only manager to lead England to four World Cups, twice reaching the quarter finals.
In 1958, three months before the beginning of the World cup in Sweden, his brilliant young team stood on the verge of greatness. But then the Munich air disaster struck, devastating the Busby Babes of Manchester United and robbing Walter of key players. Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor were all killed and the heart was ripped out of his team. But by the time he left the FA in 1962 he had laid the foundations for England’s World Cup success in 1966. He touched the lives of many people. Bobby Robson said, “I owe to him my entire international career, both as a player and a manager.” Terry Venables summed it up succinctly. “Walter began everything.”
Today Walter Winterbottom is largely forgotten by the public but is still revered in football’s inner circles. It was appropriate that the FA honoured the hundredth anniversary of his birth when Roy Hodgson unveiled a bronze bust of Walter at England’s new coaching headquarters at St. Georges Park. Roy Hodgson hailed Walter as ‘The Godfather of English Coaching.’ David Sheepshanks, the chairman of St. George’s Park said, “This place is his legacy.”
Graham Morse’s insightful biography tells the remarkable story of a man ahead of his time whose influence on the game still reverberates today. Sir Walter Winterbottom: The Father of Modern English Football was short listed for the best British Sports Book in 2014.
Graham Morse’s biography of Sir Walter Winterbottom is a long overdue tribute to a
wonderful coach and leader, whose influence on English football through his work at The
Football Association made a huge difference to the development of the game in this country.
Sir Bobby Charlton
There was no doubt that Walter had a minefield of a job and this biography provides new
insights into the battles he faced in modernising English football. He laid the foundations for
our success in 1966. Walter was kind and never given to heavy handed treatment of the
players or shows of bombast or ego. This book brought back many happy memories for me.
Graham Taylor, England manager (1990-1993)
I strongly recommend this paperback edition. If any man should be recognised in the football
world it is Sir Walter. If any man has NOT been fully recognised in the football world it is Sir
Walter. His contribution to football coaching is second to none: a man who was well ahead of
his time. Read his story.
Terry Venables, England Manager (1994-1996)
It all began with Walter: introducing coaching in England, managing the England team, he
started it all. He was an innovator of the top quality. I really enjoyed reading this book.
Howard Wilkinson, League Manager's Association
Sir Walter Winterbottom's impact on the development of the game was revolutionary. This
book gives a revealing insight into the man, his early life, how it shaped him, his thinking and
the battles he had to fight along the way. The game has changed enormously since, but many
of these changes are down to the beliefs he bravely and passionately introduced to a change
Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph.
The nation that invented football owes a great debt to Sir Walter Winterbottom for
reinventing the game. He was an inspiration. Winterbottom made good players even better,
even savvier. For aspiring coaches, Winterbottom was a revered teacher.
Alyson Rudd, The Times
The story of Sir Walter Winterbottom is the story of England's relationship with its national
football team. This is an affectionate and thorough biography about a man who loved the
game and yearned for ways to make his teams more beautiful, more effective and more open
James Lawton, Independent
Walter Winterbottom was a pioneer football man of vision and intelligence and he is
extremely well served by this admirable book. So is the English national game, because it is
more than a tribute to an outstanding individual. It is a powerful reminder of what is needed if
a once great football nation is ever to re-make itself.
Mick Dennis, Daily Express
It is absolutely spot on to call Walter Winterbottom the father of the modern game. He was
the delivery doctor and the early years tutor too. But, like an ungrateful wretch, football is in
danger of forgetting him -- or, at best, thinking of him only as the first England manager. This
carefully researched and lovingly written biography should establish, for all time, that his
contribution was profound and unique.
Patrick Barclay, Evening Standard
It’s never too late – as this fine biography demonstrates – to salute a long-neglected football
man. Congratulations to the Football Association, for commissioning the bust of Sir Walter
Winterbottom, now installed in a place where he would have loved to work, and to Graham
Morse for explaining so skillfully to recent generations, exactly why it was overdue. For
everyone interested in English football, it’s a must-read.
Matt Lawton, Daily Mail
Graham Morse tells the story of Sir Walter Winterbottom's contribution to English football
with the skill and detail such a sporting innovator deserves.
John Motson, BBC
Walter was a gigantic and inspirational figure whose influence on the game should be forever
Book launch at St.George's Park
Amazing insights into the problems and resistance the first England team manager faced
Walter Winterbottom was my father-in-law, a man with whom I had a close relationship for over fifty years, and for whom I had a deep regard and respect. I must have been to over a hundred football matches with him and listened to his thoughts on international teams and players. Wherever he went people wanted to know his views, and he was as comfortable talking to the prime minister as he was to a player. How I wished I had written it all down. I asked him many times if he would write his own biography, but he always declined approaches from publishers.
The reason he gave me was that publishers would want him to dig the dirt and he was a person who would never do that. I think too that he was essentially a modest man, always wanting to give credit to others and claim none for himself. As for earning money from the book, that would have been the last thing that would have entered his mind.
After he retired in 1978 I still kept hoping that a professional sports writer would feel that the time had come to mark Walter’s place in history. After he died in 2002 I realised that the only way it was going to happen was if I wrote it myself. I had already written one book, I had all the papers, documents, and books from his study and I had his unpublished forty page memoir, called My Story, which he had written for his grandchildren.
As I immersed myself in research and interviews over the next two years I came to realise that I knew more about Walter than anyone else in the world. I think, as it turned out, I was the right person to tell his story. I hope I have done him justice and that you will enjoy reading it as much as I have writing it.