Craigneuk, Lanarkshire born centre half Robert Donnelly began his football career with Wishaw Juniors in 1930 before he joined Scottish League Partick Thistle in 1933, where, described as “an outstanding player as well as a great stylist” with a “reputation as a cool, quick-thinking tactician”, he soon graduated to their first eleven, making such an impression that he was a non playing reserve for Scotland against England in April 1935 and was then included in The Scottish F.A. Tour to The United States and Canada in May 1935. The following month he was sold to First Division Manchester City for £5,000, making his Football League debut against West Bromwich Albion that August.
A replacement for Sam Cowan, he was a regular performer during Manchester City’s 1935-36 League campaign making 30 appearances as they finished ninth, however he lost his place at the start of the following season, and played only 7 more times during City’s League Championship winning campaign, scoring his only goal in a 5-2 win at Preston North End in April 1937. In July 1937 he returned to Scotland to join Morton, but only had a single season at Cappielow before joining Stranraer in 1938, retiring during the Second World War.