Little Lever, Bolton, Lancashire born right half Sam Wolstenholme began his football career with Darley Vale and played for Farnworth Alliance in 1896 and Horwich in 1897 before signing for First Division Everton late in 1897, making his Football League debut against Stoke in January 1898, his only appearance in his debut season. He established himself in the Everton first eleven from the end of January 1899 and was an ever present in 1900-01, helping The Toffees to a seventh placed finish. In 1901-02 they finished runners up in the League Championship and in his final season at Goodison Park, 1903-04 they finished in third place, and his consistency was rewarded when he was first selected to play for England in their 1-0 victory over Scotland at Celtic Park in April 1904.
He joined Blackburn Rovers the next month after 8 goals in 170 appearances for Everton, and spent four seasons at Ewood Park, winning two further England caps in February and March 1905 in internationals against Ireland at Ayresome Park and Wales at Anfield. He also played twice for The North XI against The South XI and played for The Football League against The Scottish League.
In June 1908 he moved to Southern League Croydon Common and spent a season with The Commoners, scoring 5 goals in 22 appearances, before joining Norwich City in April 1909, where he was club captain. He stayed four seasons at Norwich, scoring 8 goals in 145 appearances for The Canaries, before finishing his career at Chester, whom he joined in 1913.
After retiring as a player, Wolstenholme accepted a coaching position in Germany. In the spring of 1914, he was appointed by the Norddeutscher Fußball-Verband (North German Football Association) as team coach/manager of their representative XI. However while there the First World War broke out and he was subsequently interned at Ruhleben, a civilian detention camp near Berlin. The camp contained between 4,000 and 5,500 prisoners. Gradually a mini-society evolved and football became a popular activity. Wolstenholme was one of several former professional footballers in the camp. Others included fellow former England internationals, Fred Spiksley, Fred Pentland and Steve Bloomer, a German international Edwin Dutton and two fellow former Evertonians, John Cameron and John Brearley.
Wolstenholme was a prominent member of the Ruhleben Football Association. Cup and league competitions were organised and as many as 1,000 attended the bigger games. The teams adopted the names of established teams and in November 1914 Wolstenholme refereed a cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Oldham Athletic. Among the players participating were Bloomer, Spiksley and Dutton. On 2nd May 1915 an England XI featuring Wolstenholme, Pentland, Brearley and Bloomer played a World XI captained by Cameron. Wolstenholme also played cricket at Rubleben and in July 1916 played for a Yorkshire XI that lost to a Lancashire XI, featuring Bloomer.
He later managed the Spanish club Gimnástica de Torrelavega between 1924 and 1926.
His younger brother Tom Wolstenholme was also a professional footballer playing for Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Bradford Park Avenue and Nelson.