Kelly positive double act can pay dividends for the Shaymen
It is why, even as a teenager, the Derry-born defender believed his best hope of staying in football for a prolonged time was to focus on coaching.
“I understood my limitations as a player,” says the Shaymen’s chief, whose side host Woking in the National League today fresh from the heartening win at Altrincham in midweek. “That I was slow, not the quickest.
“My main strength was heading a ball. But I knew due to not being technically the best, I would start to be found out.
“I was a realist about what my playing career would be like. I felt the likes of myself would dwindle out of the game, which is what happened. I gave my all and was a warrior but by knowing my weaknesses, I decided coaching would be a way to stay in football. It is why I did my (UEFA) B-Licence at 19.”
Kelly’s playing career did bring a move to England and Carlisle United after unsuccessful trials at a number of clubs, including Nottingham Forest and Liverpool.
He also played at Wembley for the Cumbrians in the 2003 Football League Trophy final and had two years at York City, then of the Conference.
But, coaching remained a target and all that hard work seemed to have paid off in the summer when he was appointed Oldham Athletic manager.
Unfortunately, his reign lasted just nine games but, as someone who has made a feature of trying to turn a negative into a positive, Kelly insists lessons learned at Boundary Park can help Halifax out of relegation trouble.
“In life, you have to move on as the past is the past,” said Kelly. “And I came away (from Oldham) with my head held high. But you learn about yourself in a situation like Oldham. I would do things differently. Maybe make an instant decision, instead of reflecting for too long.
“Maybe I protected the players too much at Oldham from certain things. Maybe, at times, they need to take responsibility for their actions. But, again, taking the positives, it will make me a better manager here. I know what needs to be done from the performances I have watched.
“I need to create a positive environment and get up that league as soon as possible. When I came in, confidence was low and players wondering where the results will come from so it is up to me to sort that out.
“I am in no doubt that it can change. One result can flip everything, install some belief and they believe things can kick on.”
Tuesday night was a huge fillip for Kelly and assistant Jim Harvey following the nightmare start to their reign that was the 7-1 debacle at home to Cheltenham Town.
Kelly sees 57-year-old Harvey, who led Morecambe to the Conference play-offs in 2003 and was on the coaching staff at Oldham, as a vital appointment.
“Jim Harvey has been brilliant,” he said. “We worked together at Oldham, he was first-team coach. I have no doubt his experience and my modern-day thinking will work well. We will be a good partnership. We are very positive people. Very energetic people. It is not two people thrown together. I know what he brings to the table and he knows the same about me.”
Guiseley are also in action, Mark Bower’s side facing a tough assignment at leaders Forest Green Rovers.
Bower, whose side have lost their last two games, said: “They are one of the biggest spenders in the league and the expectation is for them to be challenging at the top. By rights, they should be in the Football League but we have got experience and, apart from Tuesday, we have matched all the teams we have played so far.”