Former hot-shot returns as assistant manager...WALSALL Football Club has today appointed David Kelly as Assistant Manager on an initial deal until the end of the season.
The 47 year-old beat off competition from a large number of candidates to join Dean Smith’s coaching staff as a replacement for his former Saddlers’ team-mate, Richard O’Kelly, who headed to Bristol City last week.
“I am really pleased to have Ned on board,” said manager, Dean Smith. “He was one of the four names that came into my head straight away upon Richard’s departure.
“He’s a bubbly character who possesses a lot of coaching experience, knowledge of the game and contacts.
“He is still a well-respected figure at the club for his achievements as a player, and his return is sure to give the supporters a lift.
“I’ve known him since I was an apprentice here and I am looking forward to developing a working relationship with him.
“We both have the same philosophies on the game; he won’t always agree with me and will get me thinking, which is exactly what you want from an assistant.
“There was plenty of interest in the role, with some very good candidates putting their name forward, but having spoken to Ned for a few hours on Sunday, it was clear that this was the right appointment at this time.”
An out-and-out goalscorer who was alert and quick, Kelly joined The Saddlers as a youngster in 1981 and turned professional in December 1983.
His game developed in leaps and bounds during his time at Fellows Park and he was top scorer in 1986/87 with 26 League and Cup goals, and again the following year when he notched 30 goals in all competitions, including a hat-trick in the crucial final play-off game against Bristol City which clinched promotion.
This kind of scoring form made bigger clubs sit up and take note and it was no surprise in August 1988 when West Ham United paid £600,000 for the Republic of Ireland International.
It was the most money that Walsall had ever received for a player but Kelly failed to make the expected impact at Upton Park and after 12 goals in 61 outings for The Hammers, he was sold to Leicester City in March 1990 for £300,000.
His next move took him to Newcastle United for £250,000 in December 1991 and his goals in the second half of that season helped the Geordies stave off the threat of relegation into Division Three.
He top scored with 28 goals as Newcastle won the first division title in 1992/93 but was somewhat surprisingly sold to Wolves for £750,000 in the summer of 1993.
After three seasons at Molineux he moved on to Sunderland for £900,000 in September 1995, but after just two goals in 40 games he moved on to Tranmere Rovers two years later.
He then served Sheffield United and Motherwell before ending his League career at Mansfield Town. He made over 500 League appearances and scored almost 200 goals in a successful playing career.
He then moved into coaching with the likes of Sheffield United, Preston North End, Derby County and Nottingham Forest, where he gained plenty of higher level experience, working as an assistant manager.
“I am delighted to come back to the club to help Dean,” added Kelly. “I’ve seen three or four games this season and I’ve been really impressed with the style of football that Dean has implemented here.
“There is plenty of good young talent that has been developed through the ranks and I am really looking forward to the challenge of helping the club progress.
“The supporters here will accept you if you do your best and work hard for the badge. It is something that I’d like to think I did as a player and will be doing as assistant manager.
“I’ve had a good chat with Dean and it’s clear that we share the same philosophies on football. I can’t wait to get out onto the training field and get started.
“I feel privileged to be back here. Walsall was the club that set me on my way in the professional game and I am grateful for that. Now I want to play my part in helping to shape the club’s future.”