He played for Raith Rovers and Middlesbrough, winning the Second Division title with the latter in 1927, before moving into management. He returned to Raith to become manager before leaving for Bournemouth in 1930 and then Queens Park Rangers in 1935. After guiding Rangers to 3rd place in Division Three South in 1938, he was appointed manager of First Division Chelsea shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.
During his time at Chelsea, the club consistently finished in mid-table, and narrowly missed out on relegation to the Second Division in 1951 on goal average. However, Birrell guided Chelsea to two FA Cup semi-finals, in 1950 and 1952, on both occasions losing out to Arsenal in replays. He retired following the latter defeat. He also played a significant part in the development of the club's youth system, which was to pay dividends for future managers.
- Matthews, Tony (2005). Who's Who of Chelsea. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84596-010-6.
- Mears, Brian (2004). Chelsea: A 100-year History. Mainstream Sport. ISBN 1-84018-823-5.
|This biographical article related to association football in Scotland is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.|