Kelly On Fortuna Survival Mission

All Hands On Deck In Relegation Fight

Fortuna’s imposing 54,000-plus stadium – hopefully still a top-flight venue next season.

So now it is south-east to Germany rather than north-east to Malmo that we will look from a distance in following Rob Kelly’s career in the dug-out.

A week and a bit on from Uwe Rosler’s appointment as head coach of Fortuna Dusseldorf, the 55-year-old former Wolves midfielder and youth coach has made the expected same move in his wake.

When we last profiled Kelly at length on here – after spending time with him in Sweden no less – it was all about trying to win the league and pushing on in Europe.

Now, the target is altogether different, with survival the only thing that matters over the 13 Bundesliga games that remain.

Fortuna are close to the bottom and up against it, with trips still to come to leaders Bayern Munich and their closest challengers Leipzig. Two of the 18 clubs go down, with the one immediately above the automatic-relegation line facing a play-off with the third-place finishers in Bundesliga 2.

“These jobs only tend to come round when things could be going better on the pitch, so it’s not unusual that the change has come with some pressure,” Kelly told us.

“Uwe was in charge last weekend for the home game against Eintracht Frankfurt and I watched a feed of it on my lap-top at home in England.

“The performance showed we have something exciting to work with here, although we had the disappointment of conceding an equaliser in stoppage time.

“Now the whole club have to be as one in trying to avoid relegation. That is the target we all must have.”

Fortuna are in only their second season back in the top flight following five years at the lower level and recently parted company with the popular, long-serving Friedhelm Funkel after a trying run of defeats left them propping up the table.

Unlike Malmo, who have been Swedish champions 20 times, they have never won the domestic title in their 125-year history but are playing their part in giving the Bundesliga the highest average attendances of any league in the world.

The Merkur Spiel-Arena holds 54,600 and has staged several German international fixtures plus the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest since being built to replace the Rhinestadion – the venue for England’s 3-1 defeat by Holland in Euro 88. The ground, on the banks of the river, even has a closable roof.

Rosler’s German ancestry, albeit from the old eastern bloc, had encouraged us to think that an opportunity like this might beckon in the Bundesliga for two men who operated together at Leeds and Fleetwood before combining superbly in Scandinavia.

They went within a point of making Malmo champions and built on a runners-up finish secured in October by then steering them into a last-32 Europa League tie against Wolfsburg – by coincidence, the club Fortuna drew 1-1 at yesterday in Kelly’s first match.

“I have some wonderful memories of our time in Malmo and would love to go back there some time, maybe even in European competition,” added Kelly, who is the only member of Malmo’s staff that Rosler has taken with him.

Kelly with the Express & Star’s John Lalley when we visited him in Sweden early last summer.

“But the club have come through the Europa group stages two seasons in a row for the first time in their history and that is something we look back on proudly.

“The title would have been ours if we had had more luck with penalties. We had four saved that would have been game-changers and almost certainly won us more points.

“We just felt things had run their course there and now we wish Malmo all the very best for the future as we move on to this exciting new challenge.”

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