FORMER Derry City defender, Darren Kelly, will be unveiled the new manager of Oldham Athletic later this afternoon, the 35-years having signed an initial one year full-time contract.
Darren, who was sold to Carlisle United for a transfer fee of £100,000 back in 2002, returned to Derry in 2006 via Portadown, to play a significant part in the club’s UEFA Cup rollercoaster ride against Gothenburg, Gretna and Paris St-Germain.
A former N. Ireland Under-21 international, he eventually settled in York, before moving into coaching and has since progressed to hold a Pro Licence Coaching Badge.
Five months ago, Kelly took up a coaching position within the Sunderland Academy but following a series of interviews last week, the Creggan man is now set to cut his managerial teeth at the SportsDirect.com Stadium
In fact, Iain Dowie had declared himself willing to take on the role for a second time, given the right conditions for a play-off push in Sky Bet League One next season while others interviewed for the main job at Oldham Park include Mark Yates, Paul Ashworth and current manager Dean Holden, who will remain as Kelly’s No. 2.
Commenting to the “Journal” last night, Darren said he was delighted to have been offered what he considered was a “significant challenge.”
However, despite claims to the contrary, he did not believe the appointment had been a shock.
“I don’t believe it was a shock,” he said. “I’ve been working at Sunderland for the past five months and while I have thoroughly enjoyed my time there, I think this opportunity is too good to allow pass,” he added.
“I had another interview on Thursday of last when I informed the Oldham Board of my intentions and plans for the future and I think they were impressed.
“I’m leaving Sunderland with a heavy heart, but I really don’t think I could turn down the challenge of managing a club in League One.
“I’ve no doubt that I will face a very tough challenge, but I believe I’m ready for it and, hopefully, I will be in a position to help lead the club towards the business end of League One next season.”
Kelly met the Oldham playing staff for 10 minutes after their 1-1 result against Peterborough United last weekend and having attended the club’s annual end of season dinner last night, he will officially be installed after a Press Conference this afternoon.
“I’ve watched Oldham play on a number of occasions and having finished the season in 15th place in the 24 team league, the target is to improve that finish significantly next season,” continued Darren.
“I have opted to retain the services of Dean Holden as my No. 2 as he has a good knowledge of the club and the playing staff which, I believe, will prove to be very helpful.
“Work will start almost immediately as I will do some research on the playing staff, discuss the various situations with those in and out of contract and see where that takes us.”
Having agreed a one year deal, Darren had no issues with a short-term agreement initially.
“I have great belief in my own ability. It will be my first senior managerial appointment and one which I hope to impress in.
“I know it will not be easy, there will be problem along the way, but I intend to give it my best shot and, finger crossed, that contract will be extended long before the 2015/16 season draws to a close.
Married to Sara with two sons, Lochlain (6) and Malachy (2), Darren will continue to reside in York which is approximately a one hour drive from Oldham.
“I’m realistic. It’s my first job and it will be my last if I do not apply myself totally and get it right. I think the club has opted to give young managers a chance with my predecesssor, Lee Johnson, having moved on to manage Barnsley.
“I will be asking the Board and the club’s supporters to work with me and see where that will take us.
“It’s going to be a very exciting time for and with the club located close enough to where I live, it will not mean having to relocate which is also a positive.”
Having regularly kept in touch with matters on Foyleside, Darren also insisted that managing his home town club was also high on his agenda.
“I actually made contact in relation to the job after Declan Devine had departed, but after taking advice I didn’t follow it through.
“So who knows? I have a great love for Derry City and my home town and, maybe some time in the future, I could be in a position to return as boss of the Brandywell!”