Whatever you think of Sir Walter Winterbottom,
he defied the odds. Whatever you thought Winterbottom was, he
wasn't. He was an enigma, and because he was a riddle, as is the norm,
the media would fill in their own blanks. And the astute, private
man that was Walter Winterbottom, the working-class Oldham lad, was far
too interested in his own life, never pretentious, in his own matters, to set the record
straight. He was happy for the mass to make their own minds up, for
Walter knew what he had achieved, and he had achieved massively, he just
never told anyone. So his story remained untold. Until now.
Generally, as the saying goes, if a story is worth telling, then it's
worth telling well, and this story, apart from being long overdue, is
story that has been desperate to be told.
Many prominent names in
football get to tell their story and it is told so that we are expected
to drool in anticipation of the next supercar gathering dust, if it
hasn't been wiped out, or the next girl's name whom he can't remember
from the nightclub the other night.
What needs to be recorded is
Winterbottom's career as a fantastic centre-half for Manchester United.
Not only did he command his area with an iron fist, but was equally
alert at right-half and right-back. There are many tales about how
Walter marked the great Dixie Dean out of his game. How he prevented the
legendary Ted Drake from scoring, and by him man-marking Westland out of
the game, he thus made Stan Matthews' game inaffective. This was
Walter Winterbottom, who week after week, was making all the headlines
for all the right reasons. The 1935-36 season was an explosive
season. He was rubbing shoulders with the players that he will one day
be teaching a brand new tactical game.
Winterbottom wasn't a
manager. Yes, he was England's first manager, but he wasn't a manager.
He was a coach, and he was the best. He coached the coaches, he coached
the players. He became the reason for the coaching. He gave the
England game the coaching and the tactical awareness that was needed to
bring the country on par with the rest of Europe. Many of the
established players rebuffed him. But that just made him stronger.
He was astute enough to recognise the real threat of the Hungarians in
1953 in the 'Match of the Century'.
There is a fantasic chapter on Stanley Rous. The man responsible for
bringing the Football Association forward. If Winterbottom is the father
of the modern game, then Rous is the grandfather. The one responsible,
and astute enough, to give the young Winterbottom his pivotal role with
the England team.
Graham Morse is more than adequate to tell this
story, for he is Walter's son-in-law. And that personal touch, I
believe, is what makes this book so addictive. The recollections
of tales, not always told by Walter, make the theme run along smoothly.
This coincides with a post-war history of the National Team. Of how
Walter guided his ship along the ebb and flow of the media, the press
and the Football Association.
Walter brought the national game
into the twentieth century. And this tells us how he did it and why he
did it. But thats not the end of his story, for he achieved so
much more away from the Football Association........ because they
crapped on him from a great height. He wasn't the first, and he wasn't
that last. But he wasn't going to let that hold him back. He continued
to climb the ladder of opportunity. Having just celebrated his own
centenary.... his was an anniversary worth celebrating.
Walter. Well done Morse.
Sir Walter Winterbottom was arguably
the most influential man in modern English football. He is known as
the first England team manager, but more than that he was an innovator
of modern coaching, sports administrator and a man ahead of his time;
a man who had a profound effect on English football and who laid the
foundations for England's success in 1966. Walter managed them all,
from Lawton to Charlton, and inspired many to become coaches: Ron
Greenwood, Bill Nicholson, Jimmy Hill and Bobby Robson were amongst
his disciples and took his gospel to the clubs they managed. Born in
1913, Winterbottom started out as a teacher and physical education
instructor, playing amateur football in his spare time. He was soon
signed up by Manchester United, playing his first game 1936 and
winning promotion to the First Division in 1938. A spinal ailment
curtailed his career, but during World War II he served as an officer
in the Royal Air Force before the FA appointed him as national
director of coaching and England team manager in 1946.
the only manager to have taken the national side to more than two
World Cup finals and was created an OBE in 1963 and a CBE in 1972
before being knighted in 1978. Walter died in 2002 but his legacy
continues to inspire many in football today, especially with the
opening of the new St George's Park football academy. With interviews
and insight from top football names, this book - written by
Winterbottom's son-in-law - also draws on personal diaries,
photographs and letters. However, this is more than just a biography
of one man - it's the story of how modern football came about. -
To buy: Sainsbury's