IT was only three weeks ago that Andy Kelly stood on the Belle Vue pitch being acclaimed by Wakefield Trinity’s followers yet this evening he could make their lives distinctly miserable.
Earlier this month, at half-time of the club’s game versus Hull KR, he was introduced to the crowd alongside members of Trinity’s famous 1998 promotion-winning side he coached into Super League.
Tonight, however, Kelly is in charge of Huddersfield Giants – albeit in a caretaker capacity – as they look to force his former club out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
Huddersfield’s head of youth took the helm last week when Paul Anderson was sacked and, after overseeing a gutsy 31-30 win at Salford Red Devils, now swiftly looks to guide them to within one step of Wembley.
How ironic so soon after that joyous reunion?
“It was a really good occasion that,” Kelly told The Yorkshire Post. “Meeting up with that successful side and seeing people like Sonny Whakarau again –who’d not been over here for a few years – plus Adam and Ian Hughes and a whole host of others.
“Winning the minor premiership that year and then going on to win the Grand Final was fantastic, a real highlight for me as a coach.
“But our first year in Super League, when people were forecasting our impending doom and we wouldn’t win a game, was great also as was beating Samoa with Ireland in the 2008 World Cup in Oz. But as achievements go, winning promotion in ‘98 has to be up there.”
The 55 year-old hails from Wakefield and played for them, too, making tonight’s game all the more significant. Furthermore, he was on Trinity’s books when they last reached Wembley in 1979, losing out to Widnes.
“I signed for them in February ‘78 so was just starting out my playing career,” Kelly explained.
“I remember the excitement at the club when Andy Fletcher scored that try against Saints in the corner and we knew we’d be playing Widnes in the final.
“We went down to Wembley on a staff bus with all the junior players; it was a very exciting time to be at the club.”
Now, though, all that matters is Huddersfield.
And, as much as Wakefield have not won the Challenge Cup since the glory days of Neil Fox in 1963, you have to go back a further 10 years for the last time the Fartowners prospered.
On the back of a turgid Super League campaign – they are joint-bottom despite finishing third last term – the prestigious knockout competition offers Huddersfield some sort of salvation.
“That is the real thing for us; this does give us a chance of getting something really meaningful from our season,” conceded Kelly.
“We’ve got hurdles to get over before we start dreaming, not least Wakefield who will prove very, very tough opposition.
“We know we’ll have to be as good as we can be to go on and do something but that is our aim.”
After the turmoil and tragedy of recent events, too, it would be a fitting tribute if Huddersfield could press on and lift the famous trophy for the ninth time in their history.
It is only their second game since Ronan Costello, the 17-year-old Giants academy player, heartbreakingly died following an incident in a match.
The first was that narrow win at Salford last Friday.
Kelly said: “It did wonders for everyone. It was really nice to have something positive after all the negatives of Ronan’s tragic death to the departure of Paul as head coach, a really bad week for the club.”
Granted, Huddersfield lost 10-2 at home to Wakefield less than a fortnight ago, a poor defeat that essentially cost Anderson his job.
But Trinity have problems this time around; captain Danny Kirmond has been in hospital since last Friday on a drip due to a knee infection that eventually needed surgery while vice-captain Nick Scruton and fellow forward Mickael Simon are also both injured.
Moreover, for all Wakefield have been inspired under Chris Chester, that Giants win is now their only success in four outings after they were vanquished 32-6 at home to Leeds on Friday.
As assistant coach Stuart Dickens admitted: “Kirmo will be a big loss; we need others to step up now as this is our biggest game in eight or 10 years.”