ON the day when Don Fabio announces his first England squad we though it was about time that we went back to the beginning as we look at the first ever man to take on the mantle of England manager, Sir Walter Winterbottom, who was born today in 1913.
Pre-World War II international football didn’t really resemble that of the one Capello will be making his first steps into next week. England didn’t feel the need to put anyone in charge of the national side until 1947, when they promoted Winterbottom from his role of national director of coaching that he had assumed a year earlier. Although he didn’t have the playing background that is almost a pre-requisite these days, Winterbottom was a respected figure within the game.
Having curtailed his playing career after only twenty-seven games with Manchester United due to a spinal problem, the former teacher joined the RAF as a physical trainer as football took a back seat to the war effort. When the beautiful game was back and running Winterbottom was given the top job and wasted no time in inaugurating a series of coaching courses, much to the resistance of his old-school masters in the English game. Who knows, if Winterbottom had been given more support in this part of his job we may not have been lumped with the tactical ineptitude of a certain brolly-wielding predecessor of his.
Winterbottoom kicked of his regime with a 7-2 win over Northern Ireland and his sixteen-year spell in office means that Sir Walt is still England’s longest serving manager, and this will surely never be beaten. His tenure saw the Three Lions visit four World Cup finals before he passed the baton to Sir Alf Ramsey after the 1962 World Cup in Chile.
Although a selection panel meant that Winterbottom never had the luxury of picking his own squads he still had an impressive group of players, but never took them to the heights they were capable of. Some of England’s most embarrassing defeats occurred in this period such as Hungary’s 6-3 demolition of his shell-shocked troops at Wembley in 1953 and the 1-0 reversal at the hands of then-minnows the USA in 1950, which is still regarded as one of the biggest shocks ever in international football.
Still though, the man was a trailblazer whose vision and class meant that he received tributes from across the footballing world when he passed away in 2002. Here’s some grainy footage of that fateful game against the USA in 1950 and make sure you head back here tomorrow to find out who’s the favourite ex-England player among Italy’s subcultural activists.