Robert Firth was the second English manager of Real Madrid and guided them to their second league title. He also played for Port Vale.
Born in 1887, Firth started his League career at Birmingham City and had a spell at Nottingham Forest.
He served in World War One earning a medal for gallantry before joining Port Vale, aged 34, in 1921. He was a regular during the 1921-22 season, scoring five times in 39 appearances.
He left Vale in 1922 and moved on to Southend United. However, as his playing career drew to a close, he was to become a managerial pioneer.
Racing Santander had reached La Liga (the Spanish to division) for the first time in their history in 1929. After one year in the top-flight, they appointed Firth (who had no previous managerial experience) as their head coach. Against all odds, it was a success. Racing Santander stunned the top-flight as they missed out on the 1930-31 title by goal difference (finishing second to Athletic Bilbao) in Firth’s first season in charge. The following season, Firth led the side to fourth place with Real Madrid winning the league. And in the summer, Madrid came calling, appointing Frith as their new manager.
In 1932, Madrid were not the mighty force that they are now. It wasn’t until the 1950’s – under the patronage of Santiago Bernabéu Yeste (after whom the Bernabéu stadium was built in 1947) that the side reached worldwide fame. Their 1931-32 title was the club’s first league title and only their second major honour.
However, Firth was an immediate success. He led the team to the title in his first season in charge and then to a second-placed finish in 1933-34. He had played a notable part in the club’s early history and his contribution is still recognised by the club today.
In 1934, Robert Firth left Madrid and this is where our story ends. Very little is known about Firth’s post-Real Madrid career but nevertheless he remains a unique figure as the only Port Vale player to go on and manage a foreign club to a league title.