The Welsh international footballer Ivor Powell, who has died at the age of 96, began playing the game in the 1930s and remained involved until two years ago, as a trainer at the University of Bath. In 2002 he helped to take Team Bath to the first round of the FA Cup, the first university team to reach that stage for 122 years.

Born in the village of Gilfach, near Bargoed, in the Rhymney Valley, Glamorganshire, Powell started his working life down the mines, alongside his father and six brothers. While playing for his hometown club in the South Wales League at the age of 17, he was spotted by Queens Park Rangers, though it was not until 1937 that he made his debut.

During his time with the west London club, he made 159 appearances and helped it come second in the Third Division South in 1946-47 at a time when only the top team was promoted. Securing entry to the Second Division as champions took a further year, and during that 1947-48 season Powell won the first of eight full caps for Wales, having already made a handful of appearances in wartime internationals.

His time at QPR was interrupted by second world war service. Powell was an RAF physical training instructor, and while in India met Mahatma Gandhi. He also played in the domestic Wartime League for Bradford City and at Blackpool, alongside Stanley Matthews, who became a good friend and in 1943 was best man at Powell's wedding to Joan (daughter of the footballer Tommy Browell).

On leaving QPR for Aston Villa at the end of 1948, Powell set a record transfer fee for a half-back of £17,500. During his three years in the First Division, he made 86 appearances and was made captain in the 1949-50 season. He was one of the best British players of the era, a tactically astute, tough-tackling defender who motivated the players around him – qualities that would later make him a successful coach.

However, his first foray into coaching, as player-manager of Port Vale, in 1951, was not a success. He played only in six matches, proved an unpopular manager and was sacked after three months. At Bradford City (1952-55) he lasted longer, again as player-manager, until a ligament injury brought his days as a player to a close.

In 1960 Powell returned to management at Carlisle United. He led the club to their first-ever promotion, from the Fourth Division in 1961-62, the beginning of the most successful period in their history.

Powell's long association with Bath began in 1964, when he took over as manager at Bath City. In 1973 he joined the university coaching staff; in 1993 he received an honorary degree; in 2008 he was appointed MBE; and when he finally hung up his boots in 2010, the Ivor Powell sports scholarship fund was created. Along the way he coached thousands of young people, and the Guinness Book of Records declared him to be the world's oldest football coach.

Joan predeceased him. He is survived by their son and daughter, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

• Ivor Verdun Powell, footballer, coach and manager, born 5 July 1916; died 5 November 2012