In keeping with the content of this post this article is a collaboration between The Gilbert Alsop and regular contributor, Alan Buckley’s 3 Striped Adidas Shirt. It all started when AB3SAS interrupted me from my pre-season social duties to inform me that one of his favourite players was back at the Bescot helping Dean Smith. I now hand the metaphorical mike over to him to continue the post, just like Paul McCartney handing the vocal duties over to Stevie Wonder during Ebony & Ivory.
‘Walsall fans, this week, welcomed back old pal Richard O’Kelly to become the official Assistant Manager to Dean Smith. O’Kelly returns after serving Saddlers so well for a few months last season in an unpaid capacity. He returned despite offers from Hereford and moneybags Crawley Town, so I can only assume he’s getting paid this time around! This is Richard’s fourth spell with Walsall as he had two playing stints with the Saddlers and he’s someone whom Deano can depend on and will help free up some of his time. O’ Kelly had eight years as number two to Sean O’Driscoll at Bournemouth and Doncaster after cutting his teeth on the coaching side at Grimsby and then West Brom. His recent short spell as Hereford United’s manager will also hold him in good stead as he starts work to plan and prepare the upcoming season back at Walsall’.
This reminded me of a post I wrote for my short-lived and never-read blog on the BBC’s 606 website in January 2009. You can read all of it here if you so wish. The highlights of this piece include an observation I made during a game under the Graydon era about his complete lack of an assistant.
‘I will never forget going to Bristol Rovers under Sir Ray and watching Brett Angell warm up, when all of a sudden, he stopped to answer his mobile phone. I thought to myself ‘how unprofessional’ until it was pointed out to me that Graydon was watching from the stand and Halsall was back in Walsall watching the youth team. This left Brett as the unofficial assistant for the day.’
AB3SAS also had some more thoughts on the subject of the Assistant Managers we have had at the Bescot.
‘Since our move to the Bescot Stadium in 1990, the club have appointed many Assistant Managers / First Team Coaches / jobbing help, to help the Manager and it’s hard to recall them all. Kenny Hibbitt recruited Tony Grealish as Player-Coach to assist him as the stadium opened and Chris Nicholl leaned on Kevin Wilson for a similar role. Jan Sorensen called upon Derek Mountfield. Ray Graydon had help from Mick Halsall then for a couple of months Chris Nicholl. Colin Lee enlisted a bit of experience in Dave Merrington, the inexperienced Paul Merson turned to a few including ex-Villa trainer Jim Walker and ex-Villa players, Steve Staunton and Mark Kinsella. Mick Halsall continued to assist every manager as well as being caretaker boss a few times. Richard Money called in the vastly experienced Jimmy Mullen. Chris Hutchings had the relatively inexperienced coach Martin O’Connor.
I will also add John Schofield to this list of names as he assisted Jimmy Mullen during his tenure. Myself and GA3SAS then nearly had a fist-fight about Paul Bracewell who I felt was missed off the list. Thankfully it never came to blows as I prefer to use my intelligence to win arguments and AB3SAS is a lot bigger than me anyway. It also goes to show that you shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia to check your facts as it is not mentioned on his page, it does mention it here though.
Gentleman that I am, I will leave the last words to AB3SAS, who has this to say about Richard O’Kelly’s appointment:
‘At last the club have got someone who has both a Walsall pedigree as well as over 20 years coaching under his belt. Welcome ‘home’ Richard O’Kelly’.