David Kelly was born on November 25th, 1965 in Birmingham and played for a host of clubs over a long playing career that included spells in Scotland and Ireland as well as representing Ireland 26 times before embarking on a coaching career. He takes up the story of his climb to the top...
"As a very young boy I had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is is worrying for both the child and its parents alike but it is something that rectifies itself. I was with West Bromwich Albion as a schoolboy for a couple of years from the age of 13-15 playing on the old Spring Road training ground until I was ultimately told I wasn't good enough which was a blow at the time being an Albion fan but I've always been a positive person and I was still aspiring to play football." "A guy called Alan Miller who was the schools district manager became youth team manager at Alvechurch and I was signed by him there. We had a very good youth team and I had two years there and scored lots of goals. I was invited by Wolves to play in a trial for them before Walsall's chief scout Steve Joesbury saw me score six goals in a game for Alvechurch v Tamworth and invited me to Walsall who had Alan Buckley and Garry Pendrey as their management team. I was invited to play in a youth game for Walsall at Sheffield Wednesday and scored two goals in that game at Hillsboro." "My first experience of first team football for Walsall was coming on for Alan Buckley in the Associate Members Cup against Northampton. My full debut was at Turf Moor where I scored in a 2-0 win. against Burnley." He also scored in the next two games at Fellows Park against Wigan and Plymouth and those 3 goals came in the 5 league games he played in that 1983-4 season. The following 1984-5 season saw the youngster make 22 league starts with a further 10 cameos from the bench with a further 7 goals but the stand out game for him that season was in the Milk Cup, "I scored 2 in the 3-0 victory at Coventry City which was a fantastic experience against a vey good First Division team that had some very good players." This set up a two legged affair against Chelsea in which he played in both games.
"I didn't like to be known as 'super sub' and 'bench warmer' but then with the Terry Ramsden take over and the new manager he brought in, Tommy Coakley, he really gave me the opportunity to play regular football." You can see his point - In Buck's last season in charge, 1985-6, David only made 7 starts in Division 3 but came on in no fewer than 21 games yet still managed to find the net 10 times. There was a strike partner who joined Walsall soon after Tommy Coakley took over - Trevor Christie - who had such a big influence on his then young career. " Trevor was a top pro and gave me so much good advice. He said to make your mark in the game you need to play in 150 games and that stayed in my mind along with other things like advice on finances and how to make me a better player." Its well documented that Walsall didn't get off to the best of starts in the opening weeks of Tommy's tenure but David was soon repaying the faith his new manager had shown in him by scoring in 6 consecutive games in September and October 1986 as the poor start became a lot brighter under the new regime. "The Watford games in the FA Cup that season were amazing especially the 4-4 roller - coaster at Vicarage Road. Us old players always reminisce about that one when we get back to functions and meetings etc.. Terry Ramsden came into the dressing room with a £2,000 wad of notes in his hand and said one of these for each of you should you win! That was a lot of money in those days. As for the 1-0 defeat in the third game it was all Andy Dornan's fault! There's no denying it! I never knew he actually scored a goal at the right end of football at Fellows Park till you mentioned it. That was after my time of course. He never even used to score in training!" "In October 1987 I was playing in an away game at Rotherham and afterwards Tommy Coakley told me there was someone upstairs who wanted to meet me so up we went and there was Jack Charlton, with his assistant Maurice Setters having a pint with a fag in his mouth! Tommy introduced us and Jack asked me 'Would you like to play for Ireland?' I said 'For your U21's or first team? 'First team' he replied. As sub or do I start, I inquired. 'it's a friendly so you would start. I'll see you in a couple of weeks. ' He then turned his back on me and continued drinking! So my international call up was as simple as that! "I had scored a few hat tricks in my time but to score one on your international debut (against Israel) was amazing, especially as my family went over to Dublin to watch me play and other family members over there met me. I had great years playing international football under Jack and Mick Mc Carthy who I also played along side. Mick broke the news to me that he wanted to bring in new lads for the 1998 World Cup which was fair enough.
The 1986-7 season, his first under Coakley, David played 55 games and netted 23 league goals from 42 appearances and in the FA Cup he scored in the 2-1 win at First Division Charlton. The following 1987-8 promotion winning season saw him score 20 league goals from 39 games, 7 goals from the 5 play off games and 5 more in the various cups. In his 152 starts and 38 subs apps he scored 80 goals for Walsall and on those play off games he observed, "My recollection of my hat trick goal against Bristol City in the final replay was that it was a half scuffed shot and one of the goals I scored in the semi at Meadow Lane against Notts County is my 'favourite flick' from the edge of the penalty area!" "In the summer of 1988 a few clubs were interested in signing me and I was keen on signing for Bayern Munich. We had a week there and I was training for the first 3 days then the following day there was a reserves v first team game in which I scored two for the reserves in that. They offered me a contract but I had a lot to consider as in those days there was a 'two foreigners only rule' and I would have been loaned out to another club and I didn't fancy that. So I ended up signing for John Lyall at West Ham United. We were relegated at the end of my first season. John lost his job and I played under Lou Macari and then Billy Bonds. I didn't enjoy life under Lou but Billy was brilliant. It was a good life experience there both as a player and as a man and it was a good learning curve." "Then came a move to Leicester City under David Pleat. He was as mad as a box of frogs but he installed plenty of hard work and endeavour. Brian Little came in and signed Colin Gordon and Brian knew I wasn't happy sitting on the bench. There's a common thread here with me! I was looking for a move and had already spoken to Wolves and Sunderland, both of whom I eventually played for, but I settled on Newcastle United under Ossie Ardiles. There were things going on in the back ground with a take over battle which saw John Hall installed as owner and he brought back Kevin Keegan. We stayed up on the last game of the season. I scored a goal against Sunderland that season. There is an incredible rivalry in the north east between Newcastle and Sunderland. No disrespect to Middlesbrough but that is the big one up there." "The next season at Newcastle was brilliant. We already had players like Gavin Peacock, Micky Quinn, Andy Hunt and Rob Lee. Andy Cole was signed for the last couple of months of the season and we went up to the Premier League." In that fantastic season David scored 28 goals in all competitions including 24 in the First Division. In the final game of the season, against his old club Leicester, he and Cole helped themselves to a hat trick each in a 7-1 win.
The Newcastle chapter was about to end. "I was driving back down to Birmingham one day and the phone rang. It was Kevin Keegan. 'Can you see me?' I can't at the moment gaffer, I'm driving back down the A1M. So he asked me to stop at a service station and ring him. He said, "You're not going to be happy with this, but I'm signing someone else. Wolves and Nottingham Forest are after you and I've given Wolves permission to speak to you.' I'm not going anywhere gaffer! He eventually told me he was signing Peter Beardsley . I said gaffer, if I was Kevin Keegan I'd be signing Peter Beardsley as well! I had no qualms about it, he was a far better player than me." " I signed for Wolves under Graham Turner. Believe it or not I really enjoyed my time at Wolves - and that's coming from a big Albion fan! Everything about the place was right - and still is. The managers, the characters around the place, the stadium everything. Graham Taylor replaced Graham Turner and he was great too but he told me he wanted to play Bully and Don Goodman up front. So again I wasn't going to hang around! A week later Sunderland came in for me. Graham Taylor wrote me a wonderful letter, which I still have to this day, explaining the reasons for him not wanting me, stating the money generated by my sale to Sunderland would finance the purchase of Mark Atkins from Blackburn." "At Sunderland I was out for a long spell due to an ankle operation but at the end of the 1995-6 season we were promoted to the Premier League under Peter Reid. He had signed the likes of Paul Stewart and Niall Quinn and he wanted me to play wide right! I was out riding my bike in Sutton Park that summer ( 1997 ) It was my old Ireland striking partner John Aldridge. He asked me what I'm doing. I'm out riding my bike Aldo! He wanted to know if I wanted to sign for him at Tranmere Rovers. I had three brilliant years on the Wirral and for a time Andy Thompson, Paul Cook and myself used to car share. We had great times under Aldo and I scored in the 2-1 League cup Final defeat to my old club Leicester City at Wembley. There was a new Chair person in charge at Prenton Park - Lorraine Rodgers - and she wanted me to re sign on reduced money . She said nobody would be in for me anyway and I said we'll see! I was 33 by then." "Neil Warnock, manager at Sheffield United said, 'Come in to train here for a week and see how it goes. Play for me till Christmas then become a coach. You'll be finished as a player by Christmas!' Well Christmas came and went and I was still playing ! That summer I moved to Motherwell and signed for Billy Davies. He was sacked after a 2-0 defeat to Rangers and Eric Black came in but we had a disagreement and I left. I had a call from Mansfield manager Stuart Watkiss to come in and play and coach the strikers and I helped them to promotion."
"In 2002 I went to Derry City in Ireland who by now had Jim Roddy as chairman with the understanding I would fly out there on the Thursday, train on the Friday and play for them on the Saturday. This worked well and my last game as a player in my career ended when we won the Irish Cup Final against Shamrock Rovers 1-0. We had this agreement that if a job came up in England I'd be allowed to leave and the night before I played in that cup final I agreed a return to Tranmere this time as assistant to Ray Mathias." " I was on holiday with my mate Paul Devlin and our families and there was a somewhat drunk Dev saying he'd been on the phone to Neil Warnock who wanted me back at Sheffield United as a coach. It was a bit ironic as three years previously Neil wanted me to do just that for him! After that I had 10 good years with Billy Davies at Preston, Derby and Nottingham Forest (twice) and between spells I had a call from Richard O'Kelly, who had just left Walsall to sign for Bristol City, who suggested I had a chat with Saddlers manager Dean Smith. ( February, 2013. ) I had a meeting with Dean and Jeff Bonser on the understanding I'd assist Dean until I got a call from Billy to continue with him, where I'd be free to join him. They were brilliant with me and said let's see how it goes to the end of the season. None of us expected it to be just 10 days! Dean and Jeff were absolutely fine with that and I linked up with Billy again at Forest. I'm pleased for my old mate Dean the way things have progressed with his management career from Walsall to Brentford and now Aston Villa." "I also had spells assisting my old Sheff United team mate Michael Brown at Port Vale and and I also assisted former Saddler Mark Robins at Scunthorpe United who again is a great footballing man. I'm actively looking for work again and I haven't ruled out the possibility of being a manager myself one day if the right offer came along."