Win Some, Lose Some

Reminders Of A Hazardous Profession

Rob Kelly in happier times two years ago when standing on the brink of winning the League One title with Wigan.

So this is what is meant by the ups and downs of professional football…..

For each success story currently being written by Paul Cook, Mike Stowell, Robbie Keane and Neill Collins, it seems there is a much sadder tale of other former Wolves favourites now occupying roles in the dug-out.

On a Friday teatime two years ago this month, we met up with Rob Kelly in a Telford hotel and sent him on his way an hour or two later by wishing he and Wigan good luck in their game at Shrewsbury the following day.

They didn’t really need it, a 3-0 victory securing both a promotion place and the League One title for the club managed by Leam Richardson.

Now, the duo are at the helm of Rotherham, who have just been condemned to relegation from the second tier, with one heck of a bump.

The mathematical certainty of the drop came to the Millers last weekend, although their fate had been inevitable for some weeks.

The club, beaten again today, were already four points beneath the safety line when Richardson was appointed in succession to Matt Taylor in mid-December, with Kelly reuniting with him around Christmas.

But the fact they have won only two League games since and failed to lift themselves out of the spot in the relegation places that they have occupied since September painfully underlines the backroom team’s struggle on this occasion to achieve any kind of ‘new manager bounce’.

There is another Wolves link to the backroom set-up at the New York Stadium. The goalkeeper coach is Wolverhampton-born Scott Brown, who moved there in 2022.

Also on the way down are Carlisle, although they have at least flickered under Paul Simpson in recent weeks.

The late-1990s Wolves midfielder had credit in the bank after leading his home-city club to promotion via the play-offs last spring and has achieved the unlikely feat of surviving a mid-season change of ownership.

In wishing he and Kelly much better fortunes next season, we also reflect again on how both Keith Downing and Mark Venus have become victims of the bizarre managerial changes at relegation-threatened Birmingham.

Downing, who has been one of Kelly’s best mates since their late-1980s Molineux days together, was enjoying life in the higher reaches of the Championship at St Andrew’s under John Eustace until they were summarily removed from office in the autumn to make way for Wayne Rooney.

Neill Collins….making a good fist of his first job in management in this country.

The ex-Wolves midfielders now live in close proximity after Downing and Eustace teamed up again at Blackburn, who had been on something of a spiral themselves in the second half of the season before winning handsomely in the last few days at Sunderland and Leeds.

Much more recently than their departure from Birmingham, Venus has been stood down in the wake of Tony Mowbray’s enforced absence from the game but the side, despite victory today under the interim management of Gary Rowett, remain in big danger of landing in League One.

Relegation is also a threat to Jamie Smith (coach of League One Port Vale under Darren Moore) and Rob Edwards at Luton, although the latter is still impressing in his first year of Premier League football.

Thank goodness there are stories of table-topping to be told elsewhere…with Maccabi Tel Aviv coaches Keane and Stowell aiming to complete a dramatic first season in Israel’s top flight by emulating Cook’s success in taking Chesterfield to the National League title. 

Collins is having a fine season, too, and we send our good luck to him for the remainder of Barnsley’s season, which looks like including a play-off campaign in League One.


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