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Shropshire player took Real Madrid to glory

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Robert Firth played for Wellington Town only a handful of times, but destiny had big things in store for him.

As manager of Real Madrid, the Spanish giants, he took them to a league title in his first season in charge, and runners-up the following year.

He was only the second British manager to manage the club, who were not then – we're talking about the 1930s – the force they are today.

His time at Wellington Town, the forerunner to Telford United, was admittedly very brief.

Firth had arrived from Birmingham in the summer of 1911 and played in the opening match of the season against Walsall on September 2, featuring prominently in the match report.

Playing at outside right, he clipped the post, and was denied a goal by a great save by the Walsall keeper. Hoskins headed in Wellington's goal from Firth's corner.

In no time at all, his career at the Bucks Head was over. His farewell match was on September 30 in a creditable 1-1 draw against Birmingham League leaders Stoke Reserves, who had previously hammered Wellington 6-1.

Success

As an experiment, Firth played on the left wing, which proved a success, according to the match report.

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His transfer was to Nottingham Forest in the Second Division, for whom he played for 10 years, interrupted by service in the Great War when he was in the artillery and received the Meritorious Service Medal.

Later playing spells were at Port Vale and Southend, before he became a managerial pioneer, becoming head coach of Racing de Santander in Spain, with immediate success before moving to Real Madrid from 1932 to 1934.

Apart from the league title, he took Real Madrid to the 1933 final of the Copa del Presidente de la Republica, albeit to a defeat at the hands of Athletic Bilbao.

Firth, whose birthplace is variously given as either Sheldon in Birmingham or Hanley in Stoke, seems afterwards to have dropped off the footballing radar.

According to Wikipedia he died in 1966.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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