The professional footballing career of Frank Wignall includes Everton, Nottingham Forest, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Derby County, and Mansfield Town. The centre forward also represented England at the international level.
For a club-record fee of around £20,000, he signed for Nottingham Forest from Everton in 1963.
During his first two seasons at the City Ground, he was the top scorer and caught the eye of the England national team selectors. Frank Wignall believed that he might have made the England squad if he had not broken his leg in the 1966 FIFA World Cup lead-up.
Frank Wignall is probably more famous for his time coaching in Qatar to younger readers of the blog.
Coaching In Qatar
Qatari international football history only began in 1970 with a 2-1 away to local rivals Bahrain in the inaugural Gulf Cup. However, with coaching run by local men and team selection by an FA committee, it didn’t take long for those in charge of the Qatari FA to realize that one way forward was to appoint a foreign coach, as all of their nearby rivals were doing so at the time.
It took three disappointing Gulf Cup performances in a row for them to appoint someone, though, and when they did, in 1975, he was English.
Frank Wignall At Nottingham Forest
Frank Wignall had enjoyed a solid playing career, scoring goals regularly for Everton, Nottingham Forest, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Derby County, and Mansfield Town.
He resurrected his career at Nottingham Forest after being sold by Everton. While at the City Ground, where he scored 47 times in 157 league appearances.
His best match for Nottingham Forest was against his old team in the 1967 FA Cup quarter-finals. Although Ian Storey-Moore scored a hat trick in Everton’s 3-2 victory that day, he gave Frank Wignall all the praise for setting up all the goals.
Moving On To Derby County
In the first game of the 1971-72 season, Frank Wignall played his best game for Derby County. Being 2-0 down to Manchester United, Derby County refused to give in. Frank Wignall threw himself into a collision with the Manchester United goalkeeper creating chaos that led to a goal. Then he found the equalizer with a header from close range.
Big Frank started the season well with 5 goals from 11 appearances. Manager Brian Clough wanted a different look up front and sold him to Mansfield Town. Derby County went on to become league champions that season. During his career, he was involved in two Division Two league promotions and was relegated once.
Frank Wignall England Opportunity
After scoring a hattrick for the Football League representative match versus the Irish League, Frank Wignall also picked up two England caps in 1964. He scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Wales at Wembley on his international level debut.
The Daily Mail newspaper reported ‘have found a centre-forward who played with purpose, who moves with the mobility of a man who knows what it’s all about.‘
Frank kept his place for England’s next match against Holland.
By the time he retired in 1973, he had moved into management (and continued to play on occasion) with King’s Lynn. After a season and a spell in charge of Burton Albion, Wignall accepted the call to become the first foreign coach to take control of the Qatari national team in 1975.
It was too good an opportunity to miss. Although salary and living conditions were not as lavish as those soon to be enjoyed by Don Revie in the United Arab Emirates, Wignall was comfortable and was immediately afforded respect by the local players.
Moreover, having failed to qualify for the 1976 Asian Cup after a disappointing qualifying campaign in Baghdad, Frank Wignall had the job of building the team with the 1978 World Cup in mind.
Gulf Cup of Nations
The Gulf Cup of Nations in March-April 1976 was the perfect opportunity for Wignall to see where his team stood compared to the regional powerhouses, Kuwait and Iraq. Being staged for the first time in the Qatari capital, Doha, things started well thanks to a 1-0 win in the opening match over Saudi Arabia.
The seven-team tournament saw games played at the same stadium in triple-headers, so Wignall would have seen firsthand how good Iraq was in the next match when they crushed Oman 4-0.
Two days later, Kuwait entered the competition and put the Qataris to the sword, recording a 4-0 victory of their own. It illustrated how well organized the victors were under Brazilian World Cup-winning coach Mario Zagallo.
With Iraq and Qatar running up cricket scores against the best the Gulf could offer, all Wignall and the Qataris could now hope for was to win their remaining matches and hope that one of the top two slipped up (the top two in the round-robin group were to make it to the final).
Beating The United Arab Emirates
The next match saw Qatar record a 3-1 win over the United Arab Emirates (the team who, a year later, would be under the auspices of Mr. Revie), a result that put Wignall’s men in good spirits ahead of their fourth match of six – against Iraq. Having already scored 15 goals and conceded just one at this point, the Iraqis were clear favorites.
Yet what followed was the best performance by Qatar under Frank Wignall. Chances went begging, while the opposition put in a very subdued performance. The game finished 0-0 and kept the host nation in the hunt for a place in the final. Kuwait dropped a point in the next match, leaving the top three separated by two points.
Wignall and Qatar are flying by this point. A 4-1 win over whipping boys Oman was followed by a commanding 3-0 victory over local rivals Bahrain, the first time they had beaten them. Kuwait and Iraq won their subsequent matches before they met.
Wignall needed an Iraq win and Kuwait to lose in their last game against Saudi Arabia for his side to go through to the final.
Alas, it was not to be, with Kuwait and Iraq drawing 2-2, effectively rendering the Saudi Arabia match meaningless. Still, a third-place finish was a fine achievement that took the Qataris eight years to surpass.
Did The Qatari FA Want Frank Wignall Long Term
It was an outstanding performance by the Qataris, but it was not enough for some in the Qatari FA. Wignall was not in charge of the World Cup qualifiers in 1977. Qatar did not play any internationals until a hastily-arranged friendly against Tunisia on the eve of those qualifiers.
According to John Kobylecky, in his excellent “History of the World Cup,” the Qatari qualification campaign was fraught with poor luck and illogical substitutions. Despite the opening of the Khalifa Stadium in Doha and the whole qualifying group taking place in the stadium, the home side could not get going.
At the same time, the Kuwaiti juggernaut, which would end with an appearance in the 1982 finals, flattened the three-team group (it was a four-team group, but the UAE pulled out on the eve of their first match).
Frank Wignall spent six years in the Middle East, including spells at clubs in Qatar and Kuwait. When recently interviewed, Wignall said, “It was one of the best moves I made…I enjoyed it.” On his return to England, he briefly managed Shepshed Charterhouse before doing some scouting work for Everton.
Since Wignall was in charge of Qatar, there has been a string of international coaches and journeymen, including Dave McKay, Jo Bonfrere, Philippe Troussier, and former Senegal boss Bruno Metsu and present manager Felix Sanchez.
Life After Football
Now in his 80s, Frank still loves to talk about football when people visit him in his home in Nottingham. He loves to talk about the “dirty Leeds” sides of the ’60s, meeting players such as George Best and Bobby Moore, and chatting with Stanley Matthews.
In addition, he loves to tell stories about managing the Qatar national team.
Unfortunately, he is starting to suffer from dementia. Nottingham great and his strike partner, Ian Storey-Moore, told us that Big Frank Wignall and Peter Hindley were the ones who instilled fear in the opposition.
Wignall did not back down from an opposition side willing to give him a hard time. This is evident by his broken legs. Defenders could not stop him because he was so good.
In the process of pushing for an England national team position, Wignall broke his leg three times in quick succession. It ended his selection for Alf Ramsey’s World Cup squad.
Frank Wignall Facts And Figures
Full Name: Frank Wignall
Birthplace: Blackrod, Bolton
- Everton 1958–1963
- Nottingham Forest 1963–1968
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 1968–1969
- Derby County 1969–1971
- Mansfield Town 1971–1973
- King’s Lynn 1973–1974
- Burton Albion 1973–1974
National Playing Career:
- England (2 appearances, 2 goals)
- King’s Lynn 1974
- Qatar 1975–1976
- Shepshed Charterhouse 1981-1983
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!