The transfer of a ball handling forward from one struggling club to another in 1935 might not have had much impact at the time, but it was the beginning of a relationship between Bill Sherwood and Featherstone Rovers that covered many years, with spells as a player, as a coach and as a committee man. Signed from Bradford, where he had operated mostly at stand-off, he played for Rovers at loose forward. The 1930s were tough times for a club still struggling from the retirement of the previous generation of local talent, and any promising young players being sold to pay the bills. In his role as pack leader and goal kicker, Bill Sherwood had to take on the responsibility of holding the Featherstone team together. It wasn’t until 1937 when Abe Bullock became president that this selling policy was eased to allow good players to stay at the club. Within three years, Rovers had tangible success to show for it. It must have been the highlight of Sherwood’s playing career when Rovers reached the 1940 Yorkshire Cup Final. He kicked three goals as Rovers beat Wakefield 12-9 to claim their first piece of silverware in senior rugby. Sherwood played on during the difficult war period and his final playing record was 205 games, scoring 571 points from 33 tries and 236 goals. This figure now leaves him 14th on Rovers’ all-time goal list, but when he finished he was second only to Jim Denton.
He retired in November 1945, and was offered the job of team trainer. When he took over the responsibility for coaching, the post was very different to today. Featherstone, like many other clubs, had a selection committee, so the team line up was decided in the boardroom, not on the training field. Sherwood’s responsibilities lay with fitness and conditioning (with help from the erstwhile Billy Williams) and to a growing extent playing tactics. The style of play had been previously dictated by the selection committee too, with senior players undoubtedly also having some input. By the end of the 1940s it was becoming fashionable (copied from soccer style managers) to leave such matters in the hands of the trainer, paving the way for the development of the modern day coach and his wide range of responsibilities.
A glance at the statistics will show that Bill Sherwood enjoyed only a 33% success rate as Rovers coach in the immediate post-war years, as Rovers once again struggled to hold onto and develop local players sufficiently to make a competitive team. Indeed, Sherwood was replaced for a season in 1947, but returned the following year when results had not improved. When Rovers went for another coach again in 1951, Bill Sherwood was co-opted onto the committee.
Bill Sherwood’s coaching record:
45/6: Won 21-Drew 1-Lost 19
46/7: Won 9-Drew 1-Lost 30
48/9: Won 12-Drew 3-Lost 26
49/50: Won 10-Drew 2- Lost 29
50/1: Won 13-Drew 1-Lost 27
Total: Won 65-Drew 8-Lost 131= 33.82%