Miles Barron: The story behind Barcelona's mysterious first full-time manager | OneFootball

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·5 February 2023

Miles Barron: The story behind Barcelona's mysterious first full-time manager

Article image:Miles Barron: The story behind Barcelona's mysterious first full-time manager

The extent of the British influence involved in the establishment and development of FC Barcelona is not an uncommon tale.

One of the planet's biggest and most famous football clubs came to being in 1899 courtesy of heavy foreign guidance. Swiss businessman and footballing executive Hans Gamper (later Joan, as he embraced Catalan life) assembled a small group, consisting of Anglo-Spanish footballers William and John Parsons (no relation to this author, unfortunately), that would quickly go on to found what we now recognise as a footballing institute.

Over a decade later, local honours had been accrued as well as Copa del Rey success, but it had become clear to Gamper that Barcelona could grow and emulate the grandiosities of leading football clubs around Europe.

Already boasting influence from Britain - the birthplace of Association Football rules 36 years prior and the world's footballing leaders at the time - it's no surprise Gamper turned to England to raise the bar.

The Swiss had already recruited the likes of Alex Steel, formerly of Manchester City and Tottenham, and Billy Lambe, formerly of Brighton, to join the playing staff (Lambe also became player/manager of the club for a short period) but decided to expand the professionalism of the club in 1912 by recruiting its first full-time manager.

In stepped the mysterious Miles Coverdale Stocks Barron, otherwise known as Miles 'Sidney' Barron and referred to by Barcelona's official website as B. Barren.

Whatever his true identity, his historical significance to Barcelona is of gargantuan proportion.

The link between Barron and Barcelona likely came from another of Gamper's recruits from England, Jack Greenwell, who had previously played under Barca's first full-time gaffer for West Auckland. Based in the North East of England, the club would go on to attract a lot of fame following the turn of the century courtesy of impressive European escapades under Barron's reign.

In 1909, West Auckland beat FC Winterthur of Switzerland to lift the inaugural Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, later regarded as the first World Cup, and then retained the title with a 6-1 victory over Juventus in Turin two years later.

West Auckland's disbandment just a year after that thumping of Juve due to financial turmoil, however, relieved Barron of his duties - allowing Gamper and Barcelona to swoop in.

In the Autumn of 1912, Durham-based Barron - who was a surveyor in the coal industry by trade - travelled to Catalonia to meet Gamper and was swiftly appointed as full-time manager.

What happened next would be the fundamental building blocks for the modern-day footballing giant we see now.

One of Barron's immediate objectives was to test Barcelona's ability and promote the club against top-quality, foreign opposition. So, alongside managing the Catalan club, Barron returned to the north east to compile a selection of English players, including some of his successful West Auckland side, to face La Blaugrana in a series of friendly fixtures.

A schedule of three games attracted vast media coverage and local interest, with the Englishmen receiving a hero's welcome upon their arrival.

"When the West Auckland team arrived in Barcelona, they were treated as celebrities by a football crowd that was witnessing their own team's transition from amateurs to professionals. To play against a team from England was seen as a major test," said Gavin Jamieson of Lapwing Publishing, who has conducted research into the story of Barron.

The first test, played on Christmas Day 1912 in front of a capacity ground at FC Barcelona's first permanent home Camp Del Carrer Industria stadium, resulted in an exciting 3-3 draw, with two of Barca's British contingent - Steel and Frank Allack - netting for the hosts.

The following day, the visiting side would run out 4-0 winners but the 29 December proved far happier for Barron, Gamper and the Barca players.

"This time Barcelona got the win their fans craved: Steel scored both goals in a 2-0 victory, and Barron had coached Barca to a famous win over their illustrious visitors from England," explained Jamieson.

It was a mammoth factor in the development of the club which, under the influence of the phantom-like Barron, had taken a large step in its professionalisation. Having made his significant contribution to Barcelona, though, Barron resisted Gamper's pleading and shortly returned to his native England where he resumed work as a surveyor of the collieries.

Sadly, Barron was commissioned to the Royal Engineers as the First World War broke out and contracted malaria while serving in Salonika. He would later die in 1924 at just 52 years of age.

He might have enjoyed just a brief passing in Barcelona, but his impact and legacy proved enormous.

Five of La Blaugrana's next nine managers were English as they went from strength to strength and secured a foothold as a leading club - one of those bosses was the aforementioned Greenwell.

A former player under Barron, a friend and a fellow County Durham native, Greenwell has proven one of the most important figures in the club's long history, winning six honours - including two Copa del Rey titles - in his first spell in charge as he stayed at the helm for a decade (only Johan Cruyff has enjoyed a longer tenure).

Barron might not be as prominent as the likes of Greenwell in the Barcelona history books, his time at the club might not have been as silverware-laden, and he might not have been around for that long, but there is no doubt that Barca's mysterious first full-time manager had a momentous impact on the club's progression into the titan we all recognise today.

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