Wolverhampton born centre or inside forward Jack Rowley began his football career with Dudley Old Boys in 1934 and joined the books at Wolverhampton Wanderers in November 1935, without making their first team, going on loan to Cradley Heath in 1936. Initially an outside left, in February 1937 he joined Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic, making his Football League debut at Walsall at the end of the month, scoring 10 goals in his first dozen games. His talent soon brought him to the attention of larger clubs and Rowley was purchased eight months later by Manchester United for £3,000. Still only 19, his debut for the club came on 23rd October 1937 against Sheffield Wednesday. In his second game, he scored four goals against Swansea Town. By the time senior football was suspended due to the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, he had played 68 times for United, scoring 19 goals and helping them win promotion back to the First Division in his first season as Second Division runners up.
He developed into a highly effective centre-forward in Matt Busby’s first United team after the Second World War. He was part of the team that won the FA Cup in 1948, scoring two goals in the Final as United beat Blackpool 4-2 at Wembley, and the 1951-52 League Championship. He became one of the club’s few players to have scored five goals in a single game, when in February 1949 he scored five goals in an 8-0 win over Yeovil Town in an FA Cup tie.
Rowley is one of only four players in the history of Manchester United to score over 200 goals for the club, the others being Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and Wayne Rooney. He left the club in February 1955 to become player-manager of Plymouth Argyle having scored 212 goals in 424 appearances for The Red Devils. He scored 15 goals in 58 appearances for The Pilgrims hanging up his boots in 1957, and after Plymouth were relegated from the Second Division in 1956 he guided them back winning the Third Division (South) Championship in 1958-59 before leaving the club in March 1960
He later went on to manage Oldham Athletic, being appointed in July 1960, gaining promotion to the Third Division in 1963. From there, he went on to manage Dutch club Ajax for the 1963-64 season, before returning to Britain to manage Wrexham from January 1966 to April 1967 when he joined Bradford Park Avenue staying with them until October 1968, when he returned for a second spell at Oldham, finishing his managerial career in December 1969.
Rowley was also capped six times for England between 1948 and 1952. His first cap came in December 1948 when he scored in a 6-0 victory over Switzerland at Highbury. In total he scored six goals for England, four of which came against Northern Ireland in a 9-2 victory at Maine Road on 16th November 1949. He also won 2 caps for England B on their 1949 summer tour, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Holland in Amsterdam in the second of his caps.
He was the older brother of Arthur Rowley of West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Leicester City and England B.