A talented and dedicated forward, Eddie Wainwright was one of a committed band of young footballers with whom Everton’s post-war hopes were vested.
Plucked from one of Southport’s amateur leagues as a teenage amateur in 1939, Wainwright was subsequently farmed out to Fleetwood to hone his trade. In September 1943 he made his Everton debut in the wartime league, immediately impressing the club’s management, who recommended he turned professional. He did so in April 1944.
A deep-lying forward who could also fit in on the Everton wing, he was, recalled Dave Hickson “ a really good, direct winger who could really cross the ball.” Hickson also remembered him as a popular figure in the dressing room. "He was already at Everton when I arrived and he was a lovely man. He seemed to get on with everyone around him. He had a kind word for everyone because that's the type of man he was."
Wainwright made an immediate impression in post-war football. Before the Football League had even commenced he was selected to play for an FA XI at White Hart Lane in May 1946. In 1946/47, Wainwright’s debut season, he averaged a goal every other game and over the next few years was one of the few bright spots in an ailing Everton team.
By 1950 there was talk of an England call up – this in the age of such luminaries as Wilf Mannion, Len Shackleton and Tom Finney. In April that year Wainwright represented the Football League against Ireland and was then picked to tour the United States and Canada with an FA team that infamously included Stanley Matthews – thus delaying the legendary winger’s arrival at the World Cup in Brazil.
Despite playing in a poor Everton team, Wainwright was at the peak of his career when, in December 1950, disaster struck. A tackle by Derby County’s Chick Mussock broke his leg in two places and effectively ruled him out for three years.
Wainwright’s absence – coupled with that of Cyril Lello who was also seriously injured – through much of the 1950/51 season was to have a huge effect on Everton as they finished rock bottom of the First Division and were relegated for only the second time. Wainwright missed all of the 1951/52 season and played just a handful of games the following season.
These wilderness years must have been incredibly hard for Wainwright to take. Beyond the physical torment of three years on the sidelines, in an age when players were not particularly well remunerated, appearance fees and win bonuses would have constituted a big part of his income. These were of course, lost.
A request by Wainwright for a club house – possibly to ease the financial burden he was facing – was made to the Everton directors in 1952 and eventually accepted. But in a note on the club ledgers accompanying his request, the directors sniffily recorded that all players suffering long term injury should in future refer to the Football League insurance scheme for compensation. It seems that they took umbrage at a player seeking to have his hard times eased – even though he was injured in action for the club.
Despite his injury problems, Wainwright was subject of transfer interest from Leeds and Swindon – who saw a £3500 bid rejected in October 1953 – but remained an Everton player.
When he finally returned to a regular first team berth in the second half of the 1953/54 season it coincided with Everton’s successful promotion push. Now in the veteran part of his career, Wainwright continued to be a regular for the two seasons that followed the club’s return to the First Division. Always a reliable source of goals, the kind of form that once brought him to the verge of an England call up was nevertheless elusive.
In June 1956 Wainwright, with Gwyn Lewis and Jackie Grant, joined Rochdale – now managed by Harry Catterick – for a combined fee of £2,500. He played 100 games for the Spotland club, retiring in 1959. He later settled on the Wirral and ran the Acorn Hotel in Bebington.