Oldham, Lancashire born centre half Walter Winterbottom played football for Royton Amateurs and then Mossley in 1935, where he was spotted by First Division Manchester United. He signed for United as a part-time professional in 1936 but continued his teaching career, his Football League debut coming at Leeds United the same November. In his first season at Manchester United he showed great promise, playing 21 League games and 2 FA cup games, appearing as wing half and centre half, although at the end of the season United were relegated. But in the following season he made only 4 first team appearances, his playing career effectively ended by a spinal disease, later diagnosed as ankylosing spondylitis, and he re-joined Mossley in 1938. Whilst still playing for Manchester United he left his teaching position to study at Carnegie College of Physical Education, Leeds. On graduating he was appointed as a lecturer.
During World War Two Winterbottom served as an officer in the Royal Air Force, reaching the rank of wing commander and working at the Air Ministry with overall responsibility for training PE instructors at home and overseas. He was also a guest player with Chelsea and ran coaching courses for The Football Association at grammar schools in London. In 1946 Stanley Rous, who was the secretary of The Football Association, persuaded the FA Council to appoint Winterbottom as The F.A.’s first Director of Coaching and suggested he take on the additional responsibility of being the first England team manager.
Winterbottom became he first manager of the England football team in 1946 and F.A. Director of Coaching. He was the youngest and longest serving England team manager. In all matches in which he was in charge, England played 139, won 78, drew 33, and lost 28; goals for 383, against 196. At home England lost six matches in sixteen years. England won the British Home Championship in thirteen out of his sixteen seasons (seven times outright and six times sharing top place). In the World Cup England qualified for the Finals on all four occasions under his stewardship, reaching the quarter finals twice, playing 28 matches, winning 15, drawing 7 and losing 6. He resigned from The F.A. in 1962 to become General Secretary of the Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) and was appointed as the first Director of the Sports Council in 1965. He was knighted for his services to sport in 1978 when he retired. The Football Association marked the 100th anniversary of Winterbottom’s birth by commissioning a bust which was unveiled by Roy Hodgson at St George’s Park on 23rd April 2013 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of English football.