Sir Walter Winterbottom: The Father of Modern English Football

In readiness for the 2022 World Cup, Gallery Oldham is launching an exhibition to celebrate the life and achievements of the first manager of the England men’s football team – Sir Walter Winterbottom

Born in Werneth in 1913, Walter was an excellent student. He also starred on the football pitch and played locally, including for Royton Amateurs.It was while playing for Mossley that he was spotted by Manchester United.He signed for the Red Devils and played two seasons with them before the Second World War.

Photograph of Walter Winterbottom as a young boy, standing next to a desk

In 1946 the Football Association appointed Walter Winterbottom as Director of Coaching and Manager of the England team. He was just 34 and the first national team manager. The exhibition, which opens on November 15, brings together a collection of memorabilia and images from the family archive.

It includes personal items such as the congratulatory telegram Walter received from Royton Amateurs FC after he first played for Manchester United. The exhibition also charts his time as the manager of England who took the team to four World Cup Finals ― Brazil, Switzerland, Sweden and Chile. His team reached the quarterfinals in 1954 and 1962, laying the foundations for England’s victory in 1966.

Walter Winterbottom remains England’s first, youngest, and longest serving manager. He was knighted for his services to sport in 1978. His record as England manager is still impressive to this day: PLAYED 139, WON 78, DRAWN 33, LOST 28

Image of Walter Winterbottom as a Manchester United player

Councillor Elaine Taylor, Oldham Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, said: “Sir Walter Winterbottom is another great and talented Oldhamer. It is really important to us that we celebrate our history and heritage, and Sir Walter is a big part of that.

“With the World Cup starting soon, this is a perfect opportunity to go and visit Gallery Oldham and learn about the borough’s links with football history.”

Image of Walter Winterbottom in his England tracksuit
England manager Walter Winterbottom

After the exhibition launch on 15 November you can hear a talk by the author Graham Morse. Graham’s book, ‘Sir Walter Winterbottom: The Father of Modern English Football’ is the definitive account of his life and career. The exhibition launch is from 11.30am and the author talk is at 12.30pm on Tuesday 15 November. Details about the talk are here on our Eventbrite page. All welcome!

The exhibition will be on display in the Gallery Oldham foyer throughout the World Cup. There will be a curator talk about the exhibition on Wednesday 14 December. The display will be open to visitors Mondays to Saturdays until 17 December.

Gallery Oldham