Sports medicine has been largely neglected by historians. This article examines the development of the role of the football trainer from 1885 to 1992, placing it in the wider context of the shifting relationship between orthodox and unorthodox medicine. It is underpinned by two interdependent arguments. First, it can be argued that the origins of football trainers can be traced to unorthodox alternative medicine; their role developed largely outside a regulatory framework imposed by the medical profession despite attempts to marginalise irregular healers and practitioners of alternative medicine. Secondly, it is claimed that the treatments, practices and working conditions of trainers were shaped by the sub-culture of professional football, and were an amalgam of the uneven adoption of contemporary biomedical principles and scientific developments, especially in physiotherapy, and the persistence of traditional methods.