Attacking wideman Tony Kelly spent a month on loan at Hull City in February 1992 after Terry Dolan’s side had lost nine of eleven senior fixtures during the winter months. City won two of the six matches Kelly started including a 1-0 victory against Huddersfield in which Tony scored the only goal.
Nyrere Anthony Okpara Kelly, mostly know as Tony, was born in Meriden just outside Coventry and was raised in the city in a large footballing family alongside his twin brother Mel. Older brother Errington was already playing for Bristol Rovers when the sixteen year old Tony was invited to a trial, but when Rovers declined to take him on he instead signed for cross-city rivals Bristol City. Kelly debuted for Bristol City in October 1982, at 16 years and 244 days old he was the Robins’ youngest debutant, a record he held for over twenty years. He remained on the fringes of the City first team and scored his first senior goal against Hereford United in December 1982, however his poor attitude was cited as the reason for his release in the 1983 close season after seven senior appearances and one goal.
Kelly returned to the Midlands, after a short spell at Nuneaton Borough he signed for Stratford Town where he played alongside another of his brothers Abby. In March 1985 he signed for Dulwich Hamlet, playing alongside twin brother Mel as well as future Premier League players Alan Pardew and Andy Gray. Two years later he moved to Corinthian Casuals where he quickly picked up a nine month ban for shoving over a referee who had shown him a red card. Spells at North London sides Cheshunt, Enfield Town and St Albans City were followed by a summer playing in Sweden for Gimonas CK. This move invigorated Kelly’s career and when he returned to St Albans for the 1989/90 season he attracted offers from several League clubs, eventually joining Stoke City in January 1990. He made nine appearances for the Potters as they slipped down the table and were relegated to Division Three. Kelly was used regularly by Stoke in the lower division and he scored his first senior goal for eight years when he netted in a September 1990 League Cup tie against Swansea. Often used as an impact substitute, Kelly’s form was hampered by a lavish lifestyle but at the start of the 1991/92 season he was a regular starter prior to his loan move to Hull City. Returning to Stoke, he played in a play-off semi-final that was lost to Stockport then started the Football League Trophy Final three days later against the same opponent that the Potters won 1-0, yielding Kelly his only career medal.
Kelly started the 1992/93 season back on Stoke’s sub’s bench and in November 1992 he spent a month on loan at Cardiff City. In September 1993 he was transferred to Division Three side Bury and for the first time in his Football League career he was a regular week-in week-out first team starter. Eight goals in the 1993/94 season where followed by a further five strikes in 1994/95, even though Kelly missed much of the first three months of the season. He played in both play-off semi finals against Preston in May 1995 but was not selected for the final that Bury lost to Colchester United. Kelly transferred to Leyton Orient in July 1995 and after one good season in the first team he drifted out of the picture in the early weeks of the 1996/97 season and was loaned to Colchester United. In November 1996 Kelly’s Football League career drew to a close after 210 senior appearances and 28 goals.
After a short spell at Scottish side Falkirk Kelly rejoined St Albans City in January 1997, a year later he moved to Harlow Town and retired from playing in 1999. After football Kelly worked on the railways in London, then fifteen years after his retirement he wrote a book about his playing career, his colourful lifestyle and his severe gambling habit, providing a cautionary tale for the younger members of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Date/Place of Birth: 14 February 1966, Meriden
Hull City First Game: 1 February 1992, Hartlepool United H (Division Three), 25 years, 352 days old
Hull City Final Game: 3 March 1992, Bradford City H (Division Three), 26 years, 18 days old
Bristol City (1982-1983), Nuneaton Borough (1983), Stratford Town (1983-1985), Dulwich Hamlet (1985-1987), Corinthian Casuals (1987), Cheshunt (1987-1988), Enfield Town (1988), St Albans City (1988-1990), Gimonas CK (1989, loan), Stoke City (1990-1993), Hull City (1992, loan), Cardiff City (1992, loan), Bury (1993-1995), Leyton Orient (1995-1996), Colchester United (1996, loan), Falkirk (1996-1997), St Albans City (1997-1998), Harlow Town (1998-1999)
Hull City Record
Career: 6 apps, 1 goalsTony Kelly