McGarry and Kelly – Side By Side

Legendary Stalwarts With Wolves In Common

Bill McGarry and Larry Kelly pictured together in the excellent Huddersfield book, 99 Years And Counting.

Bill McGarry won nothing in his long career before Wolves and Larry Kelly, thanks to Wembley heartbreak in 1949, won nothing AT Wolves.

But the two men had a firm bond as long-term team-mates in the side who were next in line behind Stan Cullis’s side and Albion in the epic title race of 1953-54.

A Huddersfield squad photo in a recent issue of Backpass showed the two men near each other and they were very close on the team sheet on countless occasions, too, as they totalled 620 League and FA Cup games for the club between them.

There’s more……Potteries-born McGarry, having arrived at Leeds Road from Port Vale for £12,000 in 1951, was a League ever-present in three successive seasons up to 1954 and, adding on the games he strung together before and after that long spell, made almost 180 consecutive first-team appearances.

Kelly appeared in every Terriers fixture in their Second Division promotion-winning campaign of 1952-53 and, despite an absence spanning several weeks the following autumn, was again a mainstay under the management of Andy Beattie as Wolves and Albion fought out the ultimate battle for supremacy above them.

Both players appeared in the home and away matches against Wolves on successive days at Easter, with right-half McGarry hitting the winner in the one at Leeds Road to avenge his club’s 4-0 crash at Molineux.

After helping secure a third-place finish in the top flight, both also featured in the two meetings of the clubs the following season – a 2-0 home win over the champions in West Yorkshire in the September and then a remarkable 6-4 crash despite a Jimmy Glazzard hat-trick in the West Midlands snow five months later.

At the start of 1955-56, the pair were even full-back partners for a couple of games before McGarry – but not Kelly – remained a regular starter after the drop back to Division Two had led to the installation of Bill Shankly as manager in November, 1956.

And the (future) Wolves Bill stood sixth in Huddersfield’s all-time appearances list with his 381 games when he moved on to Bournemouth as player-boss in 1961.

He has since been overtaken by several others but, to put his long and loyal service into context, his tally of Terriers outings is only one fewer than Phil Parkes amassed for Wolves.

“A midfield dreadnought of the most fearsome variety,” was how Backpass writer Ivan Ponting described McGarry. Abrasive and spiky were other adjectives used to describe him – also the phrase ‘perceptive passer and intelligent thinker.’

Laurie Kelly (far left) with Bert Williams, Angus McLean and Billy Wright. Yes, various slightly varying first names were applied to the Wolverhampton-born defender!

Kelly totalled 239 matches for Huddersfield after being signed from his home-town club Wolves in October, 1950 and is regarded in those parts as one of their top defenders in the post-war decades.

The magazine used its 74th issue to say of him: “He could reassure Huddersfield fans and give them wild palpitations all in the same match.” The piece went on to highlight his calmness but also his inclination to try to play the ball out of pressure situations in defence.

Could that start to explain why Cullis preferred Terry Springthorpe for the full-back spot in the 1949 FA Cup final against Leicester? It was a contentious decision that famously prompted Kelly to disembark from the teach coach en route to London and make his own way back to Wolverhampton.

Kelly faced Wolves in a Christmas Day fixture in 1950 and kept his place in an unchanged team for the return at Molineux the next day, Huddersfield losing 2-1 and 3-1 respectively in front of a total of 66,000 spectators.

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