Newton, Derbyshire born right half Willis “Willie” Edwards started his football career with Erewash League club Newton Rangers of the Erewash League from where he joined Third Division (North) Chesterfield in February 1922 for £10, making his Football League debut against Hartlepools United in April 1923. He went on to make 75 appearances for The Spireites, scoring once over the next two seasons, before Leeds United signed him for £1,500 in March 1925.
He went on to become a Leeds United stalwart and club captain, making 444 appearances over the next fourteen years for Leeds, scoring 6 goals, and despite twice being relegated he twice won immediate promotion back to the First Division as Second Division runners up (in 1928 and 1932). Never an ever present, he missed 3 matches or less in four of his fifteen seasons, making his final appearance for The Lilywhites in May 1939 before the outbreak of the Second World War effectively ended his career,
He was also capped 16 times by England between March 1926, when he made his international debut in a 3-1 defeat to Wales at Selhurst Park, and November 1929, when he won his final cap in a 6-0 win over Wales at Stamford Bridge, captaining his country on the last five occasions. He returned to the England squad in October 1931 but was a non playing reserve for the match with Ireland in Belfast. He also represented The Football League on 11 occasions. Edwards missed out on many more England caps because of the Football Association’s disapproval of his contract with newspapers to make weekly forecasts on upcoming matches, albeit omitting Leeds United’s own games.
Edwards continued turning out for Leeds during the Second World War, and played for their first team for the last time in 1943 and remained at the club after the War, retiring as a player in 1947 whereupon he became United’s trainer, with a stint as the club’s manager between March 1947 and April 1948 in succession to Billy Hampson, thereafter becoming assistant manager to Major Frank Buckley. In March 1950 he was rewarded for spending 25 years with the club, and again served as caretaker manager between June and December 1958 after the dismissal of Raich Carter before eventually retiring in June 1960.