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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » INSIDE WANDERERS: Why top fella Tony still has a big part to play

INSIDE WANDERERS: Why top fella Tony still has a big part to play

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IF it is any solace to Tony Kelly, or the fans who have expressed their disappointment at his side-lining this week, it is that his importance to Wanderers extends way beyond his coaching skills.
The former Burnden Park favourite may well feel slighted that he will not be in the dugout with David Lee this season, especially after unprecedented success last term.
Certainly, the response from supporters and players to the news he would no longer act as assistant in the development squad was a mixture of disappointment and bemusement.

The Scouse 53-year-old was clearly proud of the progress made by youngsters like Connor Hall, Jake Turner and Jack Earing in the last 12 months, and should get due credit for his supporting role in a northern and national title win.
But while his work as Lee’s assistant was never formalised by the club, Kelly’s duties for the Community Trust – the independent charity arm of BWFC – are as vital now as they ever were.
Often unseen but never taken for granted, the former midfielder covers many miles to represent Wanderers in the community. Whether it be spinning yarns for the monthly memories talks, which do wonderful work to help older supporters tackle problems with loneliness, depression and dementia, attending funerals or hospital visits, Kelly shoulders a lot of work which doesn’t always hit the headlines.
It is emotionally taxing stuff too, but the dignified and respectful way he goes about representing the club is worth its weight in gold.
Just as Bruce Rioch recognised the value of getting Kelly on the straight and narrow in his playing days to orchestrate a great Wanderers team, people like late chairman Phil Gartside, commercial manager Andrew Dean and BWCT’s Phil Mason recognised the importance of utilising a person who bled Bolton back then, and continues to do so now.

He is very much a part of the club’s heartbeat which kept going during some difficult times of late. Not all the people who wear the Bolton Wanderers badge necessarily get the same levels of publicity as the players.

For example, the staff at the Community Trust go into schools, work with people from all walks of life - the privileged and the disadvantaged - and get through a lot of good work in the town. They should be applauded whenever possible.
Changing the winning formula of Lee and Kelly is an odd move in the eyes of some, and indeed it brought a head-scratching response from players like Jeff King, who moved on to St Mirren this summer.
But to play devil’s advocate it may have been designed to get more out of the considerable coaching acumen of another Bolton legend, Jimmy Phillips, who signed a new contract this summer.
There can’t be many people better qualified to lend Lee a hand than Jimmy, who knows just about everything there is to know about academy football at Bolton. His experience at every level of the game can only be good for a group of which big things are expected.
There is already a more settled look about the Under-23s squad after several players were secured to contracts well in advance of the start of the season. And if that can help more of them develop that extra 20 per cent to push their way into Phil Parkinson’s plans, then all the better.
I wrote last week that ‘reserve team’ football is becoming fashionable again at the Macron Stadium, and it is great to see younger fans taking more of an interest in what happens beyond the first team bubble.

It might even translate into a few more people venturing up to Leyland on a Monday night to watch for free with a season ticket, or patrolling the touchline at Lostock on a Saturday morning to watch the Under-18s.
I dare say Kelly will be there shouting his support, regardless of what role the club has bestowed upon him.


Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Has TK taken his translator with him then?

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