Born in Cork, Noel Cantwell could have played for Ireland in cricket, but eventually opted for football. He began his career with his local side Western Rovers before joining Cork Athletic.
West Ham, then a second division side, offered him a contract in 1953 and he moved to London, claiming the second division title in 1958. While at West Ham he made his Ireland debut, winning 36 caps in an international career spanning 14 years scoring a then record 14 goals (five from penalties) for his country.
An assured full back, it was clear Cantwell was head and shoulders above his teammates at West Ham and it came as no surprise in 1960 when Matt Busby took him to Manchester United for £29,500 - a record fee for a full back at the time.
While at Old Trafford, he captained the Red Devils to FA Cup glory in 1963 and was seen by many as Matt Busby's heir. However, to the surprise of many, he quit his job as chairman of the PFA in 1967 to become Coventry City manager. He later went onto manage Peterborough.