William Garbutt – and Italian Football

“The most important man in the history of Italian Football”

This is an introduction to a more detailed article which can be seen when

The Daily Mail dated Friday 15th April 2016 reviewed a new football related book entitled ‘Mister’.  Part way through the article there is a reference to William Garbutt, an anonymous octogenarian living in ‘reduced circumstances’ in Leamington Spa.  It seems that when Garbutt died in 1964 every newspaper in Italy carried a lavish obituary.  He was deeply mourned, and in the words of Vittorio Pozzo, manager of the Italian World Cup winning teams of 1934 and 1938 Garbutt “was the most important man in the history of Italian football.”  But in this country, nothing!  So who was William Garbutt, and why did he come to Leamington Spa?

A little more research found that author Paul Edgerton had traced Garbutt’s adopted daughter Maria for a unique insight into an extraordinary man and in 2009 his book ‘William Garbutt – The Father of Italian Football’ was published.

Mr. Garbutt became a legend in Italy.  He managed Genoa, AS Roma, Napoli and AC Milan as well as spending time with Athletico Bilbao.

But how is it that William Garbutt, this legend of Italian football, could spend nine years in Leamington and almost four years in Warwick and remain anonymous?  How can it be that very knowledgeable football fans in Leamington have never heard of him?  How is it that local history buffs have never heard of him either?  Can you imagine this happening to the likes of Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho?

His story would have remained untold but for Paul Edgerton, whose interest was aroused when he read John Foot’s 2006 book, Calcio, History of Italian Football, and who then wanted to know more about this man called William Garbutt.

William Garbutt may not have been given the plaudits he deserved in the country of his birth – England – but he was, and still is, seen as the one and only “Mister” by the Genovese people.  Indeed, throughout Italy players call their Coaches “Mister” as a direct result of his time in football.  His success with his beloved Genoa – where he won the Championship in 1915, 1923 and 1924 – and his achievements in the modernisation of Italian football have him firmly fixed into the history books.

This is an introduction to a more detailed article which can be seen when

Allan Jennings, July 2016

 Acknowledgements are listed in the longer article


Tags: ,