Il Mister-William Garbutt

William Garbutt

In Italian football parlance the manager is il mister- The Mister- even today the men in charge are referred to as il mister- an Italian version of the gaffer. This practice dates back to the prominent position held by an Englishman in the development of the role of the manager/coach/trainer in early 20th century calcio.

Garbutt and son, Italy.

Italian football was nominally amateur until 1926. However, players and coaches were financially well rewarded before that. One club who seem to have been particularly adept at circumventing the rules regarding professionalism were Genoa.
The appointment of William Garbutt as coach of Genoa in 1912 is shrouded in mystery. Why a 29 year old retired professional footballer from Stockport should relocate to northern Italy to work as a stevedore has never been clear, however, soon after he made this improbable move, Genoa appointed William Garbutt as their coach.
An outside right, William Garbutt played football for the Royal Artillery, On leaving the service in 1903 he joined Reading as a professional. In 1906 he moved to Woolwich Arsenal , for whom he played until 1908 (52 league appearances, 8 goals). Garbutt then joined Blackburn Rovers (82 games 10 goals).
The connection with Italy seems to have been established whilst Garbutt was at Blackburn. Vittorio Pozzo was in England at the time- an avid admirer of the English game, Pozzo later claimed to have been at the very game in which Garbutt sustained the injury that effectively ended his playing career. There is one theory that it was Pozzo who suggested Garbutt as a coach to Genoa.
Garbutt took charge in Genoa in the summer of 1912. English professionals were, at the time, exposed to cutting edge practices in terms of fitness and tactical training (they do not compare well to modern standards but were far in advance of any such methods on the continent). 
Garbutt introduced fitness training and tactical awareness to the Italian game. Genoa were also the first club in Italy to 'buy' players from other clubs.
Garbutt was in charge at Genoa until 1927. The club won the Italian championship 3 times under his leadership.
When, on the initiative of the Fascists, AS Roma were formed in 1927 Garbutt became their fist manager. He enjoyed 6 successful years with Napoli  before moving to Athletic Bilbao in 1935, winning La Liga. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1937 he returned to Italy ( a brief spell at AC Milan and then back to Genoa).

Mr Garbutt with Genoa's 1924 scudetto winning team.