Max Woosnam was a man of such talent and versatility that he must be ranked as one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of the British sport. He was an international or first-class player at association football, lawn tennis, golf, cricket, real tennis and racquets. Woosnam himself said “If I was any good at anything, it was football” but such were his achievements that it is advisable to review them chronologically rather than try to assess their respective merits.
Max Woosnam was educated at Winchester where he was captain of cricket and golf and played for the College at football and rackets. When he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge he played against Oxford at football, golf, lawn tennis and real tennis with perhaps the only surprise of his wonderful University career being his failure to win a fifth blue at cricket. In his freshman year, 1912, he played for the University in every game before losing his place at the last minute for the Oxford match and went to Lord’s as 12th man.
After his sporting commitments at Cambridge were complete for the 1914 season, Woosnam went on the Corinthians FC tour of Brazil but no sooner had the team arrived in South America than the news arrived of the outbreak of war in Europe. The touring party spent just one night in Rio and took the next boat home. Within 24 hours of docking at Tilbury every man in the team was with the Colours, Woosnam joining the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry before transferring to the Royal Welch Fusiliers. After service in France, Woosnam left the Army early in 1919 and returned to Cambridge. He was elected captain of cricket that summer but he again failed to hold his place in the team for the match against Oxford and it was then that he decided to concentrate on lawn tennis. His victory in the men’s doubles with Noel Turnbull at the 1920 Olympics was his first major success and in Antwerp he also won an Olympic silver medal in the mixed doubles partnering Kathleen “Kitty” McKane. Woosnam was also selected as a member of the association football squad for the 1920 Olympics but as the soccer tournament began as soon as the lawn tennis program ended, he felt he could not spend any more time away from his work and so withdrew. In May 1921 he made a winning Davis Cup début in the doubles against Spain with Randolph Lycett as his partner. The same pair went on to win the Wimbledon title in 1921. Woosnam was again a member of the Olympic team in 1924 but failed to repeat his successes of four years earlier, being eliminated in the early stages of the singles and the men’s doubles.
During this golden era, Max Woosnam turned to football when the summers were over. Before the war, he had played for Chelsea while still an undergraduate but when he left Cambridge in 1919 he joined the staff at ICIC in Manchester and remained with the company until his retirement in 1954. He made 93 appearances for Manchester City between 1920 and 1925 and captained the team when they were runners-up for the First Division championship in 1920-21. Woosnam won three international caps in the 1921-1922 season, playing against Wales and Ireland in the amateur internationals and captaining the full international team, also against Wales. Woosnam was a dominating centre-half with a ferocious shoulder charge and in his three international appearances, England did not concede a single goal. Shortly after the game against Wales a broken leg ended his football career.
|Games||Discipline (Sport) / Event||NOC / Team||Pos||Medal||As|
|1920 Summer Olympics||Tennis||GBR||Max Woosnam|
|Singles, Men (Olympic)||=17|
|Doubles, Mixed (Olympic)||Kitty McKane||2||Silver|
|Doubles, Men (Olympic)||Noel Turnbull||1||Gold|
|1924 Summer Olympics||Tennis||GBR||Max Woosnam|
|Singles, Men (Olympic)||=17|
|Doubles, Men (Olympic)||Leslie Godfree||=29|