That’s What Friends Are For

Past Links Help Open A New Door For Keith

Keith Downing – in the days when others coached and he just played.

One of the first features we ever presented on this website trumpeted the experience acquired by a large number of 1980s and 1990s players Wolves players in management and coaching.

Clearly, staying power and networking, as well as talent, are key ingredients among this enterprising band, given Keith Downing’s comments following his appointment over the holiday as first-team head coach of League One promotion chasers Plymouth.

The 56-year-old left Bristol City in mid-autumn but is quickly back in employment further down the M5 thanks partly to a Robert Kelly connection.

The two midfielders struck up a firm friendship after being pitched together at Wolves in 1987 – an enduring alliance that has now helped see to it that they are established as rivals for places in the Championship.

Well over three decades on from his injury-enforced retirement as a player at Molineux, Kelly is assistant boss to Leam Richardson at Wigan, who sit third with three games in hand on top two Sunderland and Rotherham. Kelly steered Barrow to safety in 2020-21 in their first season back in the Football League.

More relevantly to this story, he had a brief 2018 spell at Bury before his departure to Malmo and then Fortuna Dusseldorf and it was at Gigg Lane that he was impressed with the bright management work of Ryan Lowe and Steven Schumacher.

The duo subsequently moved to Plymouth, from where Lowe’s departure to Preston as manager early last month created the reshuffle that saw Schumacher promoted to manager at Home Park and Downing head-hunted.

“Both Steven and Ryan hugely impressed Robert,” he said. “And, of course, I know Neil Dewsnip (Plymouth’s director of football) through (working at) the FA.

“Those are the two connections. Steven is an up-and-coming young manager and coach, and after working at the FA, I really want as many British coaches as we can to progress and do well. I don’t have a magic wand but I have come with 25 years experience and am here to learn as well. We are all bouncing off each other.”

Downing has already helped oversee a League win away to one of his former clubs, Cheltenham, and will be back in the West Midlands on Saturday.

Rob Kelly…..a friend of ‘Psycho’ since 1987

That is when sixth-in-the-table Argyle do battle with Birmingham – yet another of his ex-employers – in the third round of the FA Cup.

With our Wolves hats on, we can be excused for keeping an eye on the outcome of the Wigan v Plymouth game when it comes round on April 23, the Latics having won the meeting in Devon in late November.

Wigan are also due to be in Cup action this weekend – in an attractive home derby against Blackburn – having not played in the League since December 18 but won 6-0 at Oldham this week in the Football League Trophy.