Chorlton, Manchester born left half or inside left Don Welsh represented both Manchester and Lancashire as a schoolboy and played for The Royal Navy while stationed at Devonport in the early 1930’s. He joined Third Division (South) Torquay United as an amateur in February 1933, and made his Football League debut almost immediately against Luton Town in a 3-1 victory at Plainmoor. He immediately established himself as a key member of The Gulls’ first eleven, and by the time Charlton Athletic stepped in for his signature in February 1935, paying a £3,250 fee to take him to The Valley after he had scored 5 goals in 89 appearances for Torquay.
An extremely versatile player, he could play equally well at inside left, centre forward, centre half or left half. He soon became club captain and skippered Charlton to consecutive promotions from the Third Division to the First Division as they won the Third Division (South) Championship in 1935, following this by finishing as Second Division runners up in 1936. Welsh was a near ever present as Charlton finished their first season in the top flight as League runners up, finishing in fourth and third places in the final two seasons prior to the Second World War’s outbreak in September 1939.
He had first been called into the England squad in October 1936 and was a non playing reserve on 3 occasions, before he gained the first of three caps for England against Germany in Berlin in May 1938 in the famous Hitler salute match which England won 6-3. A week later he played for England against Switzerland in a 2-1 defeat in Zurich, and was a non playing reserve in four more internationals before winning his final cap against Romania in Bucharest, scoring one of the two goals in a 2-0 victory in May 1939. Welsh won 8 unofficial wartime International Caps for England between 1940 and 1941, scoring a total of 9 goals, of which he scored all four goals in an impressive 4-1 victory against Wales at The City Ground, Nottingham in April 1941. After the War he was picked for the England squad for two internationals against Ireland and Eire in September 1946 but was once again a non playing reserve for both matches. He also represented The Football League on one occasion.
During the Second World War he made guest appearances for Charlton Athletic, Worcester City and Liverpool and served as an Army P.T. Instructor. He scored 100 goals in 119 League games for Charlton and 43 goals in 40 games for Liverpool. Welsh also led Charlton to two War Cup finals in 1943 and 1944, winning in 1944 by beating Chelsea. He also made nine appearances for England in the semi-official wartime matches, scoring twelve goals.
He returned to playing for Charlton at the end of the War and captained the side to FA Cup Finals in 1946 and 1947. In 1946 they were beaten in extra time 4-1 by Derby County at Wembley, and in 1947 they won the FA Cup, beating Burnley 1-0 in the Wembley showpiece with an extra time goal by Chris Duffy. He left the club in November 1947 to begin his management career having scored 49 goals in 217 appearances.
Welsh started his managerial career at Brighton & Hove Albion in November 1947 aged 36 years old. His managerial career did not start well – Brighton finished bottom of the Third Division (South) at the end of the 1947-48 season. Brighton recovered to finish 6th and 8th in the next two years. Following this he joined Liverpool as manager on 5th March 1951 as a result of George Kay’s decision to step down through ill-health.
In 1954 Welsh became the first manager to guide Liverpool into relegation for over 50 years. Unfortunately, that day also saw Everton promoted back to the First Division. He had almost accomplished that feat the season before finishing 17th, and only a scrappy win over Chelsea on the last day of the 1952-53 season kept Liverpool up. After relegation Liverpool would stay in the Second Division for eight more seasons. Liverpool came near to being promoted again in 1955-56, but Welsh would not be given another chance and was sacked as Liverpool manager in May 1956. He became the first manager to be sacked by the club.
After leaving Liverpool, Welsh became a publican for a while in the West Country before the lure of football brought him back into club management again, this time at Bournemouth in the newly formed and non-regional Third Division in July 1958. After two average seasons (they finished 12th and 10th), he was dismissed in February 1961 following a string of poor results. He became the manager of non league Wycombe Wanderers for a brief spell between July 1963 and November 1964 before returning to the club where he had enjoyed such success as a player, Charlton Athletic, to become a member of their administrative staff.
NB in the photograph the Charlton players carry captain Don Welsh after their 1947 FA Cup Final win over Burnley.