Barca's Brit links

Catalan giants' English connections go way back

Last updated: 25th May 2009  

Barca's Brit links

Robson: Won a cup treble at Barcelona

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Chelsea's defeat to Barcelona might have ended thoughts of a second successive all-English Champions League final but Manchester United will be facing the next best thing when they take on the Catalan giants.

Barca's links to Britain go way back and it is doubtful whether the club would have even come into existence had it not been for three British gentlemen.

Walter Wild and brothers John and William Parsons were three of the 12 founding members of Barcelona in 1899 and they were to establish a strong British link that was to run through the club until the end of the last century when Bobby Robson left the Camp Nou.

Wild was also Barcelona's very first president and was re-elected three times before returning to Britain in 1901.

Arthur Witty - who played for the club alongside brother Ernest - was to be their second British president and had as significant an impact as Wild.

Not only did Barca play their first international game under him but he is also thought to be responsible for their colours with the club playing in blue and crimson - the same as his former school's.

Witty was to be the club's last British president to date, but on the field influence from the United Kingdom continued apace.

Heartbreak

Jack Greenwell, Ralph Kirb, Jack Domby and James Bellamy all spent time in charge of footballing matters at the Spanish giants in a 17-year run of British coaches only broken by Roma Forns' two-year spell at the helm.

Barca's British links were torn during General Franco's dictatorship with foreigners banned from Spanish football, but they were re-established in 1969 when Vic Buckingham became coach just before Christmas 1969.

Buckingham might not have won much with the Catalans but he is still remembered fondly, partly for instigating the move to sign Johan Cruyff who was to become a legend both as a player and manager, and Buckingham's death in 1995 was mourned by all Barca fans.

There was to be another hiatus in the British connection before Terry Venables was appointed coach in 1984, winning the league in his first season and suffering the heartbreak of losing the European Cup final the following year.

Venables strengthened the links back home in the summer of 1986 by bringing in Mark Hughes and Gary Lineker, who cemented a place in Barca hearts with a hat-trick over bitter rivals Real Madrid in his first season.

But despite his personal success, titles eluded Barca, and Venables made way for Cruyff and the dawn of the Dream Team era.

After a period of sustained success, Cruyff battled with the boardroom and left, setting the stage for Robson to take charge for a single season while the club waited on Louis van Gaal.

While not at the club long, Robson left quite a legacy, winning a cup treble of Copa del Rey, Cup Winners' Cup and Spanish Super Cup, as well as signing Ronaldo from PSV Eindhoven.