Winchburgh, Lothian born forward Willie Thornton began his football career with local junior club Winchburgh Athletic and signed for Glasgow Rangers in 1936, making his Scottish League debut at Partick Thistle in January 1937, two months short of his 17th birthday, and scoring his first goal for Rangers a week later. He scored 194 goals in 308 appearances both sides of the Second World War, during which Thornton served in The Scottish Horse, winning the Military Medal for his bravery. He played his last match for Rangers in January 1954, as well as playing in some wartime fixtures for Rangers when his military service allowed. Thornton is considered to be one of the greatest players in the club’s history.
Thornton won 8 caps for Scotland making his debut in May 1946 in a 3-1 win over Switzerland at Hampden Park in front of 113,000 spectators. After winning 5 more caps in the next three years he was recalled for Scotland’s summer tour of Scandinavia in May 1952 and scored his only goal for his country in a 2-1 victory over Denmark in Copenhagen, 5 days before his final cap in a 3-1 defeat to Sweden. He also played once for The Scottish League in a 3-0 defeat to The Football League at Ibrox in March 1949.
After retiring from playing became a manager with first Dundee between 1954 and 1959, and then with Partick Thistle from 1959 to 1968. Thornton later returned to Rangers as assistant manager to Davie White in the summer of 1968 and was briefly caretaker manager in 1969 after White’s dismissal, winning both his games in charge. Thornton then worked as assistant to William Waddell until his retirement from football in 1972.