Garbutt Billy Image 2 Woolwich Arsenal 1906


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Hazel Grove, Stockport, Cheshire born outside right Billy Garbutt was an excellent footballer but his achievements during his successful coaching career are what he is best remembered for. He joined the Army at a young age, and began his football career while in service playing for The Royal Artillery. He began his club career with Southern League club Reading during the 1903 season and played for them for two years, before leaving in December 1905 to join First Division club Woolwich Arsenal, making his Football League debut in a 2-2 draw at Preston North End on 23rd December 1905.

He scored 14 goals in 65 appearances for The Gunners over three seasons, including 52 League matches, despite injuries ruling him out of much of the 1906-07 season. He was part of the Arsenal sides that reached two FA Cup semi-finals in successive seasons, first losing the 1906 semi final to Newcastle United at The Victoria Ground, Stoke. then scoring in a 3-1 defeat to eventual winners Sheffield Wednesday in the 1907 semi final at St Andrews, Birmingham. However he was eventually displaced by Jackie Mordue and after spending much of 1907-08 in the reserves, his last appearance for Arsenal was in an FA Cup defeat at Hull City in January 1908, and with the club in financial trouble he was sold to Blackburn Rovers in May 1908.

He spent four seasons playing for Blackburn, scoring 10 goals in 86 appearances and he also won an inter league representative cap when he was chosen to play for The Football League. However his playing career having been blighted by injuries, he made only one further appearance in Rovers’s League Championship winning 1911-12 campaign and retired from playing in 1912, aged 29.

He then relocated to Italy to seek employment as a dockworker in Genoa, but was soon appointed as the head coach for the local team. Following his arrival, Garbutt restructured training regimes, introduced tactics, and conducted Italy’s first ever paid player transfers. This allowed him to transition the side from a semi-professional outfit into a dominant team, and Garbutt captured three Italian League Championships during his fifteen year reign at Genoa through to 1927. His contribution to Italian football through laying the foundations of player training and coaching popularized the sport in the nation, and he was widely considered the model for professional managers in Italy.

Garbutt departed to join newly formed Roma in 1927, where he secured a Coppa CONI title, and then moved further south to coach Napoli in 1929. His tenure at both sides saw them finish in their highest ever positions in the League, which prompted interest from foreign clubs, and Garbutt departed Italy for Spain to coach Athletic Bilbao in 1935, where he won a La Liga title in 1936. He returned later that year for a brief reign at AC Milan, and was soon re-appointed at Genoa in 1937. However, Garbutt was exiled from the nation under the fascist policy of Benito Mussolini, and he was forced to return to England in 1940. After the end of the Second World War, Garbutt returned to Genoa for a third time in 1946, prior to retiring in 1948.

Although his achievements are not widely known in his home country, Garbutt was instrumental in making Italian football popular, and is credited for laying the groundwork for the nation to secure victory during the 1934 and 1938 FIFA World Cups.


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