Before he went into football, Adrian Birch was a north-east shipyard worker. He became assistant trainer to Charlie Harper at Middlesbrough at the turn of the 20th century, and the pair helped the club to win promotion to the first division in the 1901/02 season. Birch left his beloved Middlesbrough in 1905 to join the newly formed Crystal Palace FC and helped them to win the Southern League second division title in their first season. Birch stayed in London until 1913, when he returned to the north-east at Darlington, where he spent nearly 20 years as trainer up to the time of his death. In 1924/25, he helped Darlington become champions of the old third division (north) and rise to the second division of English football for the first time. Having worked with touring FA teams in the past, he got the job as coach to the Great Britain team at the 1912 Olympics and returned from Stockholm with the gold medal.