Rob Kelly has made a winning return to Football League management a year and a half on from his last taste of it.
The 57-year-old was thrust into caretaker control at Championship newcomers Wigan following the shock sacking of his boss Leam Richardson on Thursday.
And he responded yesterday by overseeing the Latics’ first win in eight games, although it came the hard way after they had trailed at home to Blackpool at the interval.
“It was one big collective effort,” Kelly said. “We’ve not been on a great run, so confidence wasn’t massively high, although I don’t think we’ve ever lost track of what direction we’re going in.
“We just tried to keep things as calm as we possibly could and made one or two tweaks at half-time. But there was nothing we wouldn’t have done if Leam had still been here.
“I told the guys not to panic. We still had 45 or 50 minutes to get the job done.
“I went for a coffee with Leam the other morning and I know him from way back. He was in one of my first youth teams as a youngster at Blackburn.
“I regard him as a friend as well as a colleague and he’ll be delighted with the win because that’s the kind of guy he is. It has been a difficult few days for everyone, because he was so central to everything that was going on here – on and off the pitch.”
Only six months on from when the club were celebrating winning the League One title and a few weeks after Richardson was given a new contract, Kelly was told by the board on Thursday to take things one day at a time in his interim role.
For what it’s worth, though, we don’t expect him to emerge as a contender to take over permanently. He has previously said he does not want to manage again, although he did an excellent job in keeping Barrow in the Football League the season before last after being put in charge with the League Two newcomers in considerable trouble.
He remains on good terms with Uwe Rosler, with whom he worked at Malmo and Fortuna Dusseldorf and who joined Danish top-flight club AGF in the summer.
But the smart money must be on him linking up again with Richardson when a new door opens in the coming weeks or months.
A quick count-up shows that four of Kelly’s Molineux colleagues from the 1980s and 1990s are currently in senior coaching positions in the top flight or Football League. That’s his best pal in the game, Keith Downing (Birmingham), Mark Venus (Sunderland), Mike Stowell (Leicester) and Jamie Smith (Sheffield Wednesday).
In addition, five men who arrived in these parts after he departed – Paul Ince (Reading), Alex Rae (Reading), Mark Kennedy (Lincoln), Paul Simpson (Carlisle) and Keith Curle (Hartlepool) are in either manager/head coach or no 2 roles.
On top of all those, Rob Edwards is confidently expected to return to the dug-out shortly and Paul Cook is manager at Chesterfield, whose 5-1 victory at Torquay yesterday means they have won six of their last seven games.