MIKE KELLY is a true hero at Holyhead Hotspur by now and with very good reason.
The 35-year-old midfielder is a highly-admired player-turned-coach who spent his whole senior career with the club.
During his 19 years playing for Hotspur’s first team (2001-2020), he also went on to become the player who has made the most appearances for the club.
As a youth player, Kelly played for Holyhead Youth U8’s right through to under 17’s before going on to play for Hotspur where he progressed through the Reserves side into the first team – becoming their main man in midfield and even covering out wide and at full back when needed.
Affectionately known as ‘Chedz’, Kelly went on to win the Welsh Alliance, the Barritt Cup and the Cookson Cup. He is also the player who has made the most appearances at Cymru Alliance (now JD Cymru North aka tier two level) for Hotspur.
Talking about spending a full senior career playing for the town he grew up in and discussing the highs and lows, Kelly said: “It was just a privelage to play week in week out for my hometown club which I have a deep affiliation to. We enjoyed numerous Welsh Cup runs over the years – the best being the season we knocked out Bangor City who were flying high in Welsh Prem at the time. We were knocked out by eventual Cup Winners Bala 3-1 – I managed to get our equalising goal on Sgorio but result wasnt to be in the end. The treble winning season in the Welsh Alliance 2011/12 was unbelievable and we were promoted back to Cymru Alliance.
“In terms of low points of my career, I’d have to go with being pipped to the Cymru Alliance title by Bala and missing out on promotion to the Welsh Prem in 2008/09. Also relegation from the Cymru Alliance on two occasions and losing the FAW Cup Final in 2011/12 to Sully Sports in Aberystwyth.
“I have also had the luxury of playing alongside so many great players at the club and it’s so difficult to narrow it down when choosing the best. Locally-based would have to be Kenleigh Owen (KC) and Dean Garmey. Natural ability KC is one off the best wingers I’ve seen – so much flair and and on his day a real game changer. I think if he really applied himself he would of gone on to progress even further in the game. Dean was my midfield counterpart for many seasons and what a player. Real engine in the middle of the park, His ball distribution is First class, tenacious, vocal and real leader. The intensity he applies himself in training and games is real testament to any young & upcoming player. Finally, I have to mention Lee Webber. He was unreal when he came to the club. Composure on the ball and his defensive quality was evident from the off He raised everyone’s game. He was the final piece of the jigsaw to go up we needed but just fell short of promotion to the Welsh Premier in 2008/09.”
As a player, Kelly also represented the Ynys Môn men’s team on three occasions; Isle of Wight (2011), Jersey (2015) and Gotland (2017).
In July 2018, his incredible loyalty and contribution to Holyhead Hotspur was rewarded with a testimonial. The game, played at the New Stadium saw Hotspur defeat Sheffield United Under-23s in some style by a 4-1 margin – Jamie Roberts, John Littlemore, Luke McGivern and David Williams on target for Hotspur.
Talking about that day, Kelly said: “It meant everything. To be rewarded for the long service I was really taken back by the gesture from the club which I will always be grateful for. It was a great day all round and I was overwhelmed by all the support shown to myself and the family.”
Ahead of the 2018/19 season, Kelly was appointed player-manager of the youthful but talented Hotspur Reserves side which joined the Anglesey League set-up for that campaign.
It proved to be a very successful move for both Kelly and the club as he guided the young side to Megan Cup glory. Centre back Adam Morris scored a hat-trick and Casey Gregg (now with Trearddur Bay Bulls) also netted that evening in Llangefni in April 2018 as Hotspur’s second string hammered Pentraeth Reserves 4-1.
Recalling that season, Kelly said: “I loved it that season. The willingness from all the players to learn and develop made it all worth while. Support from my assistants and first team coaching set up was first class. Megan Cup success was the least we deserved as collective. Disappointed we didn’t sustain a heavier title charge until the end but with a young squad in their first season of men’s football, consistency was always going to be difficult. But you also have to give huge credit to the other high level established challengers Bryngwran Bulls (Champions) Caergybi, Arriva – Great season for all the Anglesey League. Regardless of any league or cups success it’s more refreshing to see lads from that squad now developing onto the first team set up. I have no doubt they will become integral players for years to come.”
Last year, Kelly earned his FAW UEFA B licence as he progressed further up the coaching ladder.
Since 2019/20, he has been assistant manager to Darren Garmey. During that season, although it was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hotspur stormed their way to the Welsh Alliance One title to once again return to the second tier ahead of football returning in future.
The footballing talents he possessed on the field are now being transitioned onto others through his coaching career.
Talking about the people who have had the biggest influence on his career to date, Kelly said: “It would have to be Campbell Harrison and Mark Williams (Evesey) when they took over Hotspur as First team management. Prior to them I was on the fringes of the first team as a winger, but after first Pre-Season converted me from a natural winger to a box to box central midfielder. From then on I never looked back and became a mainstay in first team set up for years to come. Also the faith they showed was reflected when I was named Club Captain at just 21 Years old.”
Closing the AFE interview by talking about the lack of footballing action over the last year and his hopes for the future, Kelly added: “When football has been an integral part of your life week in week out its difficult to stop all of sudden and adjust. But taking that all into account the health and wellbeing of general public takes precedance over everything.
“In the future, I hope to continue progressing with my coaching, currently at UEFA B Level supporting the Hotspur First Team. Really looking forward to a restart. I think we will be very competitive against real quality opposition in the Cymru North. I think we will surprise alot of teams with the team currently being assembled.
“I’m also looking forward to get going again with the U8s coaching as we have lost huge part of their development due to the lockdown which I’m keen to make up when safe to do so. Finally being able to go see my beloved Leeds United back in Premiership at Elland Road – I’m slowly trying to convert my eldest son’s allegiance from Liverpool to Leeds – but its not working!”